SRINAGAR: Two noted writers from Kerala have joined the growing list of poets and writers returning awards and resigning from official positions in protest against rising intolerance in India, citing the murder of rationalist writer MM Kalburgi and the lynching of a Muslim over ‘suspicion’ of consuming beef as examples of such communal virulence.
Sara Joseph, considered one of the finest novelists in Malayalam, and widely respected for her activism as well (she also contested on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket in 2014 from Thrissur, and got thousands of votes), has returned the Sahitya Akademi Award she received in 2003. “There is a growing fear and lack of freedom under the present government. Writers are being killed, people are being killed, ghazal singers are not being allowed to perform – this is not the free India I have lived in,” Joseph said.
Castigating the premier official literary body, the Sahitya Akademi, Joseph said it “ has remained silent over all of this, when it should have been the first to speak out. I am returning my award in protest”.
Joining her, feted poet and writer K Satchidanandan also resigned from his official posts in Sahitya Akademi committees, saying the literary body had “failed” in its duty to stand with writers and uphold the freedom of expression. Satchidanandan was serving in the General Council, Executive Board and Financial Committee of the Akademi.
The two joined writers and poets who have resigned and turned down honours in recent weeks: novelist Shashi Deshpande has resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General Council denouncing “growing intolerance” in the country. Urdu novelist Rehman Abbas also returned his 2011 Sahitya Akademi Award on the same day. Earlier, Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpeyi had returned their literary honours to protest what they termed as an “assault on right to freedom of both life and expression”. Hindi writer Uday Prakash, considered a major contemporary literary voice, was the first to return his Sahitya Akademi award.