Dadri lynching was the last straw: Nayantara

Sahgal clarified it would be mistake to assume she had been selective in her protests. “My outrage has been entirely unselective.”

Noted novelist Nayantara Sahgal has called upon academics and scholars to join the protest spearheaded by leading Sahitya Akademi awardees.

Her appeal goes beyond the confines of Sahitya Akademi writers as she urged people from other disciplines to join their protest — the who’s who includes, Punjabi writer Dalip Kaur Tiwana, who returned her Padma Shri on Tuesday. In returning their awards, the writers have questioned the State’s silence to the increasing intolerance in the society. “What I would like to see is historians and specialists do the same,” Ms. Sahgal said. Novelist Salman Rushdie has come forward to endorse the action by writers.

The reason, Ms. Sahgal said, was to caution them against the dangers posed by the BJP government’s decision to rewrite the education policy for the country, with the intention of conforming it to its Hindutva ideology, which was a threat to the composite culture of the country. Ms. Sahgal said she was not the first to return her award and that honour belonged to writer Uday Prakash. “I hoped to raise the consciousness of people by returning the award and it is gratifying that many writers feel my sense of anguish,” she said.

At the time of going to press, nearly 20 writers had given up their literary honours as mark of protest against the increasing intolerance in the country and the violence that has come with it seen in the killings of rationalists, writers and the horrific lynching of Akhlaq at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. “The lynching of the poor man was the last straw,” Ms. Sahgal said. Two members of the Akademi have chosen to relinquish their positions.

Ms. Sahgal clarified it would be mistake to assume she had been selective in her protests. “My outrage has been entirely unselective. The miscarriage of liberty and justice has been the material of my books,” she said.

From Punjab where as many as seven writers and poets have returned their awards, to Assam’s litterateur and journalist Homen Borgohain, writers are spearheading a protest hitherto unseen in the history of the Sahitya Akademi.

Chairperson of the Akademi Viswanath Prasad Tiwari, who has called an emergency meeting on October 23, of 27 members who are on the Executive Board, said, “I will inform the secretary of the Board and other members of the decision of the writers and will wait for their decision. Ek Aandhi chal padhi [a storm has started].”

Mr. Tiwari said, depending on the Board, a resolution would be passed. “If they decide in favour of a press conference, we will call one,” he added.

He said Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma had enquired about the decision of some members to quit and others who had returned their awards.

Mr. Tiwari also clarified that the decision of the writers had got politicised and this was harming the Akademi. “From questioning the Prime Minister’s silence, the writers have questioned the Akademi’s silence and I feel, that is not good,” Mr. Tiwari said.

Agencies add:

In a brief statement, Ms. 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,” she added.

In Punjab, as many as seven writers and poets — Surjit Patar, Jaswinder Singh, Baldev Singh Sadaknama Darshan Bhuttar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Gurbachan Bhullar and Canada-based Waryam Sandhu — have given up their awards.

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