Eminent Kannada playwright Raghunandana on Thursday declined the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in protest against the trend of “mob lynching and violence in the name of God and religion” and the attempts to silence dissent.
Apologising for refusing the award, Raghunandana said he could not as a theatre artiste, poet and playwright accept the honour “when such injustice is being done to these dharmamargis (righteous people) in my country, in the name of my country”.
“My atmasakshi (conscience), my antaryami (God within) does not permit me to,” he said. The award had been announced on Tuesday.
A rush by writers, artists, filmmakers, historians and scientists to return their government awards in late 2015 in protest at the “growing intolerance” had prompted Union ministers, BJP leaders and Internet trolls to take swipes at the “award wapsi” gang.
“This is not a protest. It comes out of despair, a helpless inability to accept the award. I respect the Akademi, and all those who have received this award, now and in the past. I thank the members of the Akademi, and apologise,” Raghunandana said in a statement.
“However, today there is mob lynching and violence in the name of God and religion, and even in the matter of what one eats. The powers that be are directly, or indirectly, responsible for these deadly acts of murder and violence.”
Raghunandana alleged that the country’s rulers had decided to silence the poor and the powerless by throttling the voices of conscientious intellectuals and activists. “This has always been so, regardless of the party, or parties, in power.”
Calling these thinkers the truest patriots, he said they were the ones who trod the path of true dharma (righteousness).