Glad Akademi has broken its silence: Writers

Dhanachuli (Uttarakhand), Oct 24 (IANS) A day after Sahitya Akademi condemned the killing of rationalist M.M. Kalburgi and assured some action would be taken, many writers said that they are glad the institution had broken its long silence on the issue.

“The Akademi has come out with a strong statement. As writers, we will build a defence of freedom of expression when the average man understands that freedom of expression is a fundamental right,” author Jerry Pinto told IANS on the sidelines of the first leg of the Kumaon Literary Festival which got underway here on Friday.

Denouncing the criticism that writers were displaying selective outrage by returning their awards due to the Akademi’s silence on the killing of rationalists and growing intolerance in the country, Pinto said that the events had reached a tipping point.

“What has happened over the last few years is an increase in jungle law. There is always a tipping point. Now the situation is anyone can do anything. Writers are responding to that. It should be appreciated that we spoke now instead of being silent forever. Don’t expect a writer to be consistently outraged about everything,” he said.

“Everything is perceived as a politically motivated move. From accepting the award to not to accept it and returning the award, everything is politically motivated. It’s only innocent to believe that there are things which are free of politics. Why accuse only the writers who have returned the award for being politically motivated. It’s a selective accusation,” he said.

For author and literary historian Rakshanand Jalil, though Akademi’s statement came late, she said that writers can’t be held responsible for breaking the silence.

“The Akademi’s response is too little, too late. We can’t be held up for breaking the silence. It’s a flawed reason to accuse writers. Things have reached a certain pass,” said Jalil, adding that the shrinking space of liberals is a worrying trend.

Author Anuja Chauhan was glad that Akademi has broken its silence. “Glad that Akademi silence is broken, Returning award is a symbolic move. I don’t think there is any political bias as writers like Nayantara Sahgal have always spoken up,” said Chauhan.

However, all writers are not on the same page in returning awards. Author Vikram Sampath, a Sahitya Akademi winner, said that he doesn’t intend to return the award as he feels that its an insult to the state.

“I dont want to return my award for multiple reasons, The whole spectare is being made that apocalypse has been descended on india. I feel it is politically motivated. Lot of them are doing a publicity stunt. There are double standards everywhere,” Sampath said.

He added that most of them haven’t returned the award as they claim. “Everybody has taken it as a bucket challenge, most of them have not sent the plaque back except Nayantara Sehgal, according to Akademi sources,” Sampath added.

He also termed it selective outrage by writers. “India earned the dubious reputation when Taslima Nasrin was physically assaulted and not allowed to enter Bengal. I am not allowed her to invite her to the Bangalore lit fest because the state didn’t give permission,” he rued.

Sampath also ridiculed his fellow writers on the tipping point. “A series of books have been banned in the past and no one protested. Selective outrage is not called for. As a historian, I was at the end of attacks for writing a book on Tipu Sultan. My effigy was burnt. Intolerance has been a part of society always,” he said.

He also alleged that many writers are confused. “Even the writers are confused. Some are saying they are against Sahitya Akademi, some says against the government and some are protesting against growing intolerance,” he said.

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