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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Writer Nayantara Sahgal returns Sahitya Akademi Award, protesting rising intolerance


Writer Nayantara Sahgal returns Sahitya Akademi Award, protesting rising intolerance

Nayantara Sahgal. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy | The Hindu
Her protest is "in memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty".

To register her protest against what she described as "vicious assault" on 's diversity, noted writer Nayantara Sahgal has returned the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award.

In a statement issued in New Delhi Ms. Sahgal, said her protest is "in memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty".

Expressing alarm over the recent attacks against rationalists, which have led to widespread protests from civil society she said: "Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva — whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle — are being marginalised, persecuted, or murdered".

Niece of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Ms. Sehgal while explaining her decision to return the honour, made a reference to the recent killing of a Bishara village resident Mohammad Akhlaq, who was dragged out of his home and lynched on the suspicion that beef was cooked in his home; and to the recent killing of rationalists M.M. KalburgiNarendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.

Critical of the 's inaction and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence, she said: "In all these cases, justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology."

She also took a pot shot at the Sahitya Akademi for remaining silent; pointing out that the Akademis were set up as "guardians of the creative imagination, and promoters of its finest products in art and literature, music and theatre".

Ms. Sahgal also drew attention to a recent statement made by Vice-President Hamid Ansari, who made a reference to India's Constitution that promises all Indians "liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship".

"The right to dissent is an integral part of this Constitutional guarantee. He found it necessary to do so because India's culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault," she said.

Here is the full text of her statement as was published on the website indianculturalforum.in

The Unmaking of India 

In a recent lecture, India's Vice-President, Dr. Hamid Ansari, found it necessary to remind us that India's Constitution promises all Indians "liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.

"The right to dissent is an integral part of this Constitutional guarantee. He found it necessary to do so because India's culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault. Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva – whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle – are being marginalized, persecuted, or murdered.

A distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, M.M. Kalburgi, and two Maharashtrians, Narendra Dhabolkar and Govind Pansare, both anti-superstition activists, have all been killed by gun-toting motor-cyclists. Other dissenters have been warned they are next in line. Most recently, a village blacksmith, Mohammed Akhtaq, was dragged out of his home in Bisara village outside Delhi, and brutally lynched, on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home.

In all these cases, justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.

It is a matter of sorrow that the Sahitya Akademi remains silent. The Akademis were set up as guardians of the creative imagination, and promoters of its finest products in art and literature, music and theatre.

In protest against Kalburgi's murder, a Hindi writer, Uday Prakash, has returned his Sahitya Akademi Award. Six Kannada writers have returned their Awards to the Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

In memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award.

Signed: Nayantara Sahgal, Dehra Dun, October 6, 2015

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