Nariman, who had resigned from the post of additional solicitor general in June 1975 in protest against Indira Gandhi‘s decision to impose Emergency and suspend fundamental rights of citizens, said the protest fever catching up with writers was not surprising.
“It is a protest against the Sahitya Akademi not taking a stand against growing intolerance against citizens’ right to express their views without fear. Their decision to return the award is a mode of protest,” Nariman told TOI.
“Time is begging the PM to speak convincingly against growing intolerance and send a tough message that anyone attempting to stifle right to freedom of expression and right to dissent would be dealt with in accordance with law,” Nariman, recipient of the Padma Bhushan in 1991 and Padma Vibhushan in 2007, said.
“The PM speaks on so many issues in his Mann Ki Baat. The issue over which writers are protesting touches every citizen’s life. The PM should be concerned about this. The throwing of ink on Sudheendra Kulkarni tells us how intolerant some people can be. The PM must send a strong message publicly that in a country governed by rule of law, such hooliganism against free speech would not be tolerated,” the octogenarian said.
“It is the PM’s silence that forced the President to speak out against the atmosphere of intolerance,” he said.
President Pranab Mukherjee had said, “I firmly believe we cannot allow the core values of our civilization to be wasted… over the years (our) civilization celebrated diversity, promoted and advocated tolerance, endurance and plurality. These core civilization values kept us together over centuries. Many ancient civilizations have fallen. But despite aggression after aggression, long foreign rule, India’s civilization has survived because of its core civilization values and adherence to them.”
Nariman said it was one thing for the President to speak out against intolerance but he was just the figurehead of the country. “The head of the political executive, the PM, must speak out because his words carry more weight and meaning on the ground.”