Vadodara: After Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpeyi, city-based writer Ganesh Devy today returned his Sahitya Akademi Award to express solidarity with the writers, who have recently given up their awards to condemn the "shrinking space for free expression and growing intolerance towards differences of opinion" in the country.
"It is high time that writers take a stand," Devy said in a letter addressed to the president of Sahitya Akademi Prof Viswanath Pratap Tiwari.
"It is with utmost regret that I would like to convey to you that I wish to return the 1993 Sahitya Akademi Award given in the category of books in English to my work 'After Amnesia' (1992)," he said in the letter.
The founder director of the Vadodara-based Bhasha Research and Publication Center, said, "I do this as an expression of my solidarity with several eminent writers, who have recently returned their awards to highlight their concern and anxiety over the shrinking space for free expression and growing intolerance towards difference of opinion.
"These eminent writers have already stated their concerns in statements sent to you as well as through media interviews and discussions. I need not, therefore, state again what has already been conveyed to you."
"I hope you will give this country the assurance that it is the writers and thinkers who have come forward to rescue sense, good-will, values, tolerance and mutual respect in all past ages. Had this not been so, why would we be remembering the great saint poets who made our modern Indian languages what they are today?
"The great idea of India is based on a profound tolerance for diversity and difference. They far surpass everything else in importance. That we have come to a stage when the honourable Rastrapatiji had to remind the nation that these must be seen as non-negotiable foundations of India should be enough of a reason for the Sahitya Akademi to act," Devy said in the letter.
Nayantara Sahgal, the 88-year-old niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, had announced her decision to return her Sahitya Akademi award. In an open letter titled "Unmaking of India", she had referred to the Dadri lynching of a Muslim man by a mob over suspicion of eating beef, and also the killings of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. Sahgal had also questioned the silence of PM Narendra Modi on these incidents.
Former Lalit Kala Akademi chairman Ashok Vajpeyi has returned the Sahitya Akademi Award to protest the "assault on right to freedom of both life and expression".