Srinagar: Noted Kashmiri poet and writer Marghoob Banihali announced on Monday that he will return one of India’s top literary honours, Sahitya Akademi Award, against the murder of Kashmiri Muslim trucker Zahid Bhat by a Hindu mob in Udhampur on October 9.
Banihali, who was awarded by the Akademi for his poetry collection “Partavistan”, in 1979, told Kashmir Reader, “I will return my Sahitya Akademi Award against Zahid’s killing. How can I remain silent?”
The poet also regretted not having returned the award when more than 120 protesters, mostly young boys, were shot dead during street protests in 2010.
“It was a mistake that I did not return the award in 2010 when scores of our youth were killed. I had made up my mind to return the honour that time but my friends stopped me probably because they too would have had been compelled to return theirs. I apologise to Allah for delay in returning the award. I think I am not supposed to apologise to the people,” he said.
Before Banihali, another Kashmiri Akademi Award winner, the poet Ghulam Nabi Khayal, returned the award, joining more than 40 Indian writers and poets who returned theirs in protest against “rising religious intolerance and communal attacks”.
However, Khayal had said that “atrocities in Kashmir were debatable” when asked whether human rights abuses committed by Indian forces ever made him think of returning the award.
The legendary short story writer, Akhtar Mohiuddin returned the Sahitya Akademi award, given to him in 1958, in protest against JKLF leader Maqbool Bhat’s hanging in Delhi’s Tihar jail in 1984.
Moreover, Akhtar Mohiuddin also returned his Padma Shri award in the 1990s in protest against the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir.