Awards row: Goan writers not to return Akademi awards, for now

Panaji: A group of Sahitya Akademi awardee writers from Goa, including Amitav Ghosh, Maria Aurora Couto and others, is of the view that returning awards in protest of "growing intolerance" in country under the Narendra Modi dispensation may not be the right way forward at current juncture.

Unlike their counterparts who are returning awards against the polarised atmosphere and murders of rationalists in recent past, these litterateurs want the Akademi to officially condemn "the threat to their fundamental rights" and are looking forward to the meeting of the literary body's executive council on October 23.

"We are greatly disturbed by the recent murders of rationalist intellectuals (Narendra) Dabholkar, (Govind) Pansare and (M M) Kalburgi followed by the recent lynching of a Muslim over suspected beef eating. Rightwing fanatics have disrupted the music concert and book publication of the Pakistani musician and writer," the writers said in a joint statement released to the media today.

While a proposed music concert of ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali in Mumbai was cancelled due to opposition from Shiv Sena, its activists had blackened the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, organiser of the book launch function of former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri.

The group, however, does not think that returning their awards is the right way forward.

"To express our concern in one solid voice and to demand from Sahitya Akademi the official condemnation of the threat to our fundamental rights is more imperative at this juncture," reads the release.

The writers, however, have expressed their solidarity with those who have returned the honour or resigned from the membership in the protest.

Sahitya Akademi awardees from Goa include senior poet Nagesh Karmali, novelist Damodar Mauzo, Pundalik Naik, N Shivdas, Datta Damodar Naik, Ramesh Veluskar, Meena Kakodkar, Hema Naik, Dilip Borkar, Gokuldas Prabhu, Mahabaleshwar Sail, Prakash Padgaonkar, Arun Sakhardande and Tukaram Seth, Padma Shri awardee Maria Aurora Couto and Amitav Ghosh.

"Some of us wanted to return the awards but we have withheld the decision in the view of Sahitya Akademi's incoming Executive Council meeting where the Akademi is hopefully expected to condemn the cultural talibanism in the country," the group has said.

"During the last 18 months, in particular, the rabid fundamentalist forces have torn apart composite cultural mosaic of this country. If not contained, they will turn this country into a graveyard of creativity. This will kill scientific temperament and literary and cultural renaissance, ultimately stalling the economic progress of this nation," the statement said.

At least 30 authors including Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpeyi have decided to return their Akademi awards and five writers have stepped down from official positions of the literary body.

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