New Delhi: Six more authors on Sunday have joined the ranks of litterateurs who have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards protesting against "rising intolerance" in the country.
Among the six were five Punjabi writers — Akademi awardees Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit, Gurbachan Bhullar and Waryam Sandhu as well as Shiromani Lekhak award winner Megh Raj Mitter — who decided to return their awards.
Gujarat-based writer Ganesh Devy also decided to return the honour while Kannada writer Aravind Malagatti resigned from the body's general council, joining the growing protest by litterateurs over "rising intolerance" and "communal" atmosphere.
Devy, who hails from Vadodara, said he was returning the award to express solidarity with Nayantara Sahgal, Ashok Vajpeyi and others who have given up their awards to condemn the "shrinking space for free expression and growing intolerance towards differences of opinion" in the country.
"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 a letter topresident of Sahitya Akademi Prof Viswanath Pratap Tiwari.
Delhi-based Aman Sethi said he too was returning the Sahitya Award he got in 1993, as the "spirit of inquiry is clearly under threat".
With the writers' protest over its "silence" on rationalist MM Kalburgi's murder growing louder, Sahitya Akademi chairperson Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari came out with a statement saying the apex literary body stands for freedom of expression and condemns attack on any writer or artist anywhere. It asserted its commitment to the "core secular values" enshrined in the Constitution and the "right to life of all".
Several authors including Sara Joseph and Uday Prakash, have already returned the honour demanding that the Akademi speak out against the killing of its member Kalburgi and other rationalists and the "communal" atmosphere in the backdrop of the Dadri lynching incident.
"During recent past, the attempts at disrupting the social fabric of the country, targeting particularly the area of literature and culture, under an orchestrated plan of action, has been perturbing me," he said.
The 78-year-old author born in Bathinda in Punjab had been awarded the Sahitya Akademi for his 2005 book of short stories "Agni-Kalas".
A renowned Punjabi playwright, Aulakh said he was very pained by the attacks on "progressive writers, leaders of the rational movement and the forcible saffronisation of education and culture".
He said he was "very upset over the communal atmosphere being created in the country and the central government was not performing its duty as the representative of a secular and democratic country".
Punjabi theatre personality Atamjit Singh said he was returning his Akademi Award as he "is very upset over the incidents communal hatred in the country for the last some months".
In more embarrassment for the Akademi, Aravind Malagatti resigned from its General Council, condemning its 'silence' over the killing of progressive thinker and scholar Kalburgi.