Leading writers Nayantara Sahgal, Shashi Deshpande and others today demanded a strong condemnation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of Dadri lynching incident, saying the country comprises not just Hindus but ‘Hindustanis’ who need to be protected in the wake of “increasing violence”.
In a related development, 14 Sahitya Akademi writers from Goa decided to launch a campaign against the recent killings of rationalists and writers in the country.
However, some eminent writers and Sahitya Akademi award winners from West Bengal and Assam did not agree that returning awards was the correct way to agitate against Dadri lynching and attacks against rationalists, saying protests should be organised on a mass scale.
“This country belongs to all Hindustanis, not just for Hindus. All Hindustanis need to be protected. Government must consider this its responsibility that each religion is respected and our pluralism is given its due. This is not happening,” Sahgal, who returned her Sahitya Akademic Award protesting against “growing intolerance” in the country, said in a statement.
The 88-year-old writer said there is an “increase in violence” and “many people are afraid about the future.”
She quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite hymn ‘Vaishnav Jan to tene kahiye” on the spirit of tolerance while asking the Prime Minister to abide by it.
Bengaluru based author Shashi Deshpande, who had stepped down from the general council of the Sahitya Akademi, said that Modi has used a very weak word “unfortunate” to term the lynching incident.
Modi today described the Dadri lynching and opposition to Ghulam Ali’s concert as “undesirable and unfortunate” and made clear his government had nothing to do with them but accused the opposition of indulging in “pseudo secularism” and politics of polarisation.
“Unfortunate is a very weak term and the leader of the country should be morally responsible for whatever is happening in the country. People have elected you and a few words from the leader of the country makes a lot of difference,” Deshpande said.
Joining the chorus of writers returning their Sahitya Akademi awards, poet K K Daruwallah today said he was giving up the award, blaming the literary body for not standing by its authors who are “under political duress.”
With this, at least 28 authors including Nayantara Sahgal and Ashok Vajpeyi have decided to return their Akademi awards and five writers have stepped down from official positions of the literary body, which in turn has convened an emergency meeting on October 23 to discuss the developments.
In Panaji, the 14 Sahitya Akademi writers from Goa banded together. Konkani writer N Shivdas said, “We have unanimously decided to agitate. This has not happened before in any state. We plan to continue the agitation till the international film festival.