New Delhi: Close on the heels of a string of writers handing over their literary awards, theatre artist Maya Krishna Rao today returned her Sangeet Natak Akademi award to protest against the Dadri lynching and the "overall rising intolerance" in the country.
The city-based actor expressed her disappointment over the government's failure to "speak up for the rights of citizens."
"Rationalists, creative artists, thinkers, dissenters, activists have faced threats and even been murdered. On a carefully-orchestrated malicious rumour in Dadri village an ironsmith was lynched and killed. The government has failed to speak up for the rights of the citizens in disturbing incidents such as these," she alleged.
In a letter addressed to Helen Acharya, the secretary of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Rao expressed her disappointment.
"The present government has in spite of reminders from society, done little to stand up for the right of people to express their thoughts and ideas and love the way they would choose to in a free country," she said.
"The Prime Minister is just agreeing with the statement made by the President barring that he has not said anything else regarding the incidents that are happening in the country. The PM has to be acting on whatever is happening on the ground," Rao, who had received the award in 2010 from the Akademi, told PTI.
The 62-year-old New York-born actor, director and writer, has since the late 1970s produced a body of work that has provoked her audiences to delve into social and political issues.
A founder-member of the street theatre group Theatre Union, Rao scripted, directed, and performed street plays such as 'Om Swaha', a critique of dowry, and 'Dafa No. 180', on the Indian rape law, between 1979 and 1982.
She has produced a succession of compelling single-actor plays such as 'Ravanama', 'Are You Home Lady Macbeth?', 'A Deep Fried Jam', and, 'Heads Are Meant for Walking Into' and 'Quality Street', based on a short story by the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie, was presented by her to great acclaim last year.
Claiming that universal issues ranging from personal and individual rights are "under threat" daily, she said, "As a woman artist of the country, I think it's high time we all stand up to this."
Rao is the first artist to return her award. Till now there has been a growing chorus of protest in the literary community. At least 16 authors have so far returned their Sahitya Akademi Awards.