Punjabi author returns Padma Shri, two more return Akademi award

At least 25 authors have decided to return their Akademi awards and 5 writers have stepped down from official positions of the literary body

Chandigarh/New Delhi: Eminent Punjabi writer and Padma Shri winner Dalip Kaur Tiwana yesterday decided to return her award to protest “recurrent atrocities” on Muslims in the country. Kannada writer Prof Rahamat Tarikeri and writers Krishna Sobti and Arun Joshi have also returned their Sahitya Akademi awards.

In a letter to the Centre, Tiwana said, “In this land of Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev, the atrocities committed on the Sikhs in 1984 and on the Muslims recurrently because of communalism are an utter disgrace to our state and society. And to kill those who stand for truth and justice put us to shame in the eyes of the world and God. In protest, therefore, I return the Padma Shri award”, said the author who received the honour in 2004.

Joining the bandwagon of writers and poets protesting growing intolerance, Kannada writer Prof Rahamat Tarikeri said yesterday, he has returned his Sahitya Akademi award to protest against the killing of scholar M M Kalburgi and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. In a letter addressed to the President of the Akademi, Tarikeri said, “It is sad that the Sahitya Akademi has not condemned the brutal murder of Kalburgi, an eminent scholar and Akademi award recipient. The killing of Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalburgi, is an attempt to create an intolerant society”. The recent Dadri lynching over beef eating rumours is also part of this intolerance, said Tarikeri, Professor at Hampi Kannada University, who was conferred the award in 2010.

With writers Krishna Sobti and Arun Joshi following suit, at least 25 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, which in turn has convened an emergency meeting on October 23 to discuss the developments. Speaking on his decision to return the honour, Sobti said, “I have returned my award due to various issues like the ghar wapsi, the Dadri lynching, church attacks and more recently the Shiv Sena incident on Monday. All these are shocking and disturbing.”

Sangeet Natak Akademi Chair speaks

New Delhi: Amid a string of writers and a theatre artist returning their awards in protest against the Dadri lynching and the rising intolerance in the country, Shekhar Sen, the Sangeet Natak Akademi chair has advised against misguided reactions.

Shekhar Sen

Sen said, “Reaction is the first dharma of a creative person, but all I am saying that it should not be misguided and directed towards the wrong people or organisation.” He added, “It's the personal decision of the artists to return their award. We honour their decision and anger. But a realisation has to dawn upon the creative community that we are an autonomous body. The awards are given by jury members who are themselves from the creative fraternity.” A Padma Shri awardee in the field of arts, Sen had become the Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi this year. He also suggested other forms of protest such as plays, poetry and songs. Requesting the creative fraternity to channelise their reaction in creative ways, he said, “Awards given by autonomous institutions like ours should not be politicised.”

Salman Rushdie dismisses criticism by ‘Modi Toadies’
Booker Prize winning author Salman Rushdie, was flooded with a barrage of hate messages following his tweet in support of Nayantara Sahgal and other writers who returned their Sahitya Akademi awards. The 68-year-old author responded in another tweet, “Here come the Modi Toadies.

Salman Rushdie

FYI Toadies: I support no Indian political party and oppose all attacks on free speech. Liberty is my only party.” His tweets came after Shiv Sena activists in Mumbai blackened the face of ORF chief Sudheendra Kulkarni on Monday. The Mumbai-born author was in 2012, forced to pull out from the Jaipur Literature Festival citing death threats after some authors used the platform to read out portions from his 1989 novel, The Satanic Verses, which was the target of a fatwa, for allegedly hurting Muslim sentiments.

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