Kashmir Reader Desk
Srinagar: Noted Indian writer Nayantara Sahgal has returned the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in protest against what she described as a “vicious assault” on India’s diversity.
In a statement Ms. Sahgal, who is first Indian prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece, 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”.
She also made a reference to the recent killing of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh state, Mohammad Akhlaq, who was dragged out of his home and lynched on the suspicion that beef had been cooked in his home; and to the recent killing of rationalists M.M. Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
Critical of the government’s inaction and Indian 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.