Minister solution: approach Modiji

Culture minister Mahesh Sharma has advised Sahitya Akademi winners serially returning their awards in protest to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 13.10.15
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New Delhi, Oct. 12: Culture minister Mahesh Sharma has advised Sahitya Akademi winners serially returning their awards in protest to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders.

"They should give written complaints to the government or approach Modiji," Sharma told reporters. "...These are not government awards but recognition given by eminent writers of India."

He added that although the government was "saddened" by the deaths of authors, law and order was a state subject and advised the protesters to write to the chief ministers concerned.

In an interview to NDTV, Sharma also commented on the paint attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni, saying protests should be "within the constitutional framework".

At least 10 more Sahitya Akademi awardees had renounced their awards by the time this report was filed, taking the total number to 20. They include Hindi authors Krishna Sobti, Mangalesh Dabral and Rajesh Joshi; Punjabi author Waryam Sandhu, Kashmiri writer G.N. Khayal and Gujarati poet Anil Joshi.

Two Kannada writers, Srinath D.N. and G.N. Ranganatha Rao, have also renounced their Akademi translation prizes.

Maya Krishna Rao became the first Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee to renounce her prize. The Delhi-based street theatre and solo-show trailblazer wrote to Akademi secretary Helen Acharya, saying the government had "done little" to stand up for the right of people to express their thoughts and ideas.

Over the weekend, Urdu novelist Rahman Abbas renounced his Maharashtra State Urdu Sahitya Akademi award. Six Kannada authors had renounced their state-level awards last week.

All those who have renounced their awards or resigned from the Sahitya Akademi have cited the institutional silence on the killings of writers and rationalists M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, the lynching of a man in Uttar Pradesh and the suppression of dissent under the Modi regime.

They have found support from writer Salman Rushdie. "I support Nayantara Sahgal and the many other writers protesting to the Sahitya Akademi. Alarming times for free expression in India," Rushdie tweeted today.

Rushdie, who received a barrage of abrasive tweets, replied: "Here come the Modi Toadies. FYI, Toadies: I support no Indian political party & oppose all attacks on free speech. Liberty is my only party."

The Indo-Asian News Service quoted Konkani writer N. Shivadas as saying: "Over 30 Konkani writers have received the Sahitya Akademi award since the 1970s. We are meeting on Wednesday, where we will decide collectively on the course of action."