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Some Sahitya Yuva Puraskar awardees ‘condemn’ intolerance

Awards Return

Some recipients of this year’s Sahitya Akademi’s Yuva Puraskar today said that accepting the awards does not mean they do not condemn the “religious intolerance” against which several past winners have staged an ‘award wapsi’.

“Receiving this award does not mean that I do not condemn the religious intolerance spreading across the country,” said Kannada author Mounesh Badiger at an awardees’ meet organised by the Sahitya Akademi here.

Badiger is among the writers from 23 languages who were conferred the Yuva Puraskar in a ceremony here on November 18.

The Kannada writer has been awarded for “Maayaa Kolahala”, his collection of short stories “which impresses readers by its symbolism and socio-political consciousness”.

The Bengaluru-based author said he was in “a state of quandary” on whether or not to come here to receive the award.

“At a time when we are seeing increasing religious conflicts in the country, communal violence, when a lot of writers, agitated by the brutal murder of intellectuals, are involved in a campaign to return their awards and at a time when the performance of the Sahitya Akademi itself is viewed as questionable, I was in a big dilemma as to whether or not to accept this award,” Badiger said.

The 31-year-old author who began writing in 2002 said he ultimately decided to “accept the award with humble feeling.”

“Artistes like me who rely on art for our livelihood most certainly do not have the forward financial strength to refuse an award of this huge an amount,” he said.

Instituted in 2011, the Yuva Puraskar recognises young authors under the age of 35 years, with the aim “to encourage and promote young writers” and carries a cash prize of Rs 50,000 and an engraved copper plaque.

Adivasi writer and medical doctor Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar who was awarded for his English novel “The Mysterious Ailment of Rupi Baskey” said returning of awards represents a form of protest.
“Returning of awards is a kind of protest. Power is a very

dangerous kind of position. Writers are protesting against this position of power and I agree with any kind of protest,” Shekhar said.

He said protest could be expressed in a lot of forms besides the act of returning awards.

“Even staging a dharna, writing a book or composing a song can all be a form of protest – only the spirit of protest should be there,” he said.

Telugu writer Pasunoori Ravinder, who received the Akademi award for his book of short stories “Out of Coverage Area” in Telugu, said, “I condemn the killing of Kalburgi who was a Sahitya Akademi award winner in Kannada and Pansare and Dabholkar and also discrimination against those who eat beef.”

In the recent past, the ‘award wapsi’ campaign by writers, artistes and filmmakers protested against “rising intolerance,” following incidents like the murder of rationalists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar and the lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri over rumours that he had beef in his house.

At least 38 authors including Nayantara Sahgal, Ashok Vajpeyi, Uday Prakash, Keki N Daruwalla have returned their Akademi awards. The 2012 Yuva Purasakar awardee Aman Sethi had also joined in the protests by returning his award.

Marathi writer Veera Rathod, who got the Akademi award for his “Sen Saai Ves” a collection of poems, said he condemned “all inhuman killings”.

“I do not want to support any ideology. As a teacher, writer and a responsible citizen of the Indian democracy, it is my responsibility to condemn all the inhuman killings that have happened in the country,” the 35-year-old writer said.

“I am in a dilemma. On the one hand, I am happy to receive this award, but on the other hand, the Indian society, particularly the world of writers, artistes and thinkers is in a state of turbulence. I am probably not competent enough to say what is right and what is wrong but I can feel the country is not in its right form. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been so much noise,” he said.

This year, 13 books of poetry, three novels, six collections of short stories and one book of literary criticism have won the Yuva Puraskar. There was no award for the Kashmiri language.