The protest initiated by writers Uday Prakash and Nayantara Sahgal has turned into a deluge of dissent, with at least 11 more litterateurs deciding to return their Sahitya Akademi awards and three quitting posts in the institution even as celebrated author Salman Rushdie on Monday joined the chorus against “rising intolerance“ in the country .“I support Sahgal and many other writers protesting to the Sahitya Akademi. Alarming times for free expression in India,“ he tweeted. Danseuse and theatre personality Maya Rao added another dimension to the protest by retu rning her Sangeet Natak Akademi award.
With more than 25 authors returning the awards, the Akademi will call a meeting of its executive board on October 23. The latest to return Sahitya Akademi awards included five more writers and translators from Punjab -four Punjabi authors did so on Sunday -Hindi writers Manglesh Dabral and Rajesh Joshi, Kashmiri writer Ghulam Nabi Khayal, Kannada writer Srinath D N, Konkani author N Shivdas and translator G N Ranganatha Rao.
Dabral and Joshi issued a joint statement severely criticizing the government for curtailing the freedom of expression. “Curtailment of freedom is not limited to writers but even on food habits. A section of the ruling establishment is spewing venom against Muslims. Serious commu nal atmosphere is being created in the country,“ Dabral told TOI.
“What is ironic is that a vocal PM like Narendra Modi has kept quiet on the issue,“ he said. Khayal said, “I have decided to return the award. The minorities in the country are feeling unsafe and threatened. They fee their future is bleak.“
In his statement, Srinath said, “In place of the pen, there are now bullets being fired. Author Kalburgi was murdered and both the Centre and the state should quickly act against the offenders so that such an incident is not repeated.“
Three litteratuers, meanwhile quit their posts in the Akademi -E V Ramakrishnan from the English ad visory board, and K S Ravikumar and C R Prasad from the Malayalam advi sory board.
Reacting to the developments, cul ture minister Mahesh Sharma said “If you go back to people who have done this and if we explore their mo tives and what has been their back ground, I think something revealing will come out.“ He said the writers should have written to the state or central government if they were concerned about law and order.
Among those joining the dissenters on Monday was Padma Shri recip ent and Punjab’s best-known con emporary poet Surjit Patar.
He was joined by four others from Punjab, including poets Jaswinder and Darshan Buttar, novelist Baldev Singh Sadaknama and translator Chaman Lal.
Besides, children’s writer Hardev Chauhan said he would return the nat ional award given to him by NCERT n the early 90s. In all, 11 Punjabi writers and poets have turned in their awards in the past two days.
Later in the day, theatre artist Maya Krishna Rao decided to return her Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. Four other writers from Punjab and a Gujarat-based author Anil Joshi also returned their awards.