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Sahitya Akademi Award Logo LMIKolkata, Oct 13, 2015 (Agency)

With eminent authors returning Sahitya Akademi awards to protest rising intolerance, union minister Bandaru Dattatreya said it was their individual right and intellectuals were free to act as per their wish in a democracy.


"It is their individual wish and India is a democratic country," the minister of state for labour told media persons here on Tuesday while attending an event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).


Nearly two dozen authors have announced their decision to return their awards as a mark of protest since a man was lynched in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri area allegedly for consuming beef, and in the wake of murders of writers in the country.


Asked about Monday's incident of Shiv Sena cadres pouring black paint on Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman of the think-tank Observer Research Foundation, Dattatreya said, "The political leadership of BJP has already commented on it and my stand is the same as that of the national leadership."


A group of Shiv Sena cadres poured paint on Kulkarni to protest launch of a book by Pakistan's former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri at a function in Mumbai on Monday.

Partap BajwaChandigarh, October 13, 2015 (Yes Punjab News)

Reacting strongly to the decision of the centre to release Sikh terrorist Waryam Singh from Bareilly jail in Uttar Pradesh, the Punjab Congress President Mr Partap Singh Bajwa today called upon the Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi to clarify the policy of his government towards terrorists responsible for heinous crime.


In a statement,  he said the Modi government had overlooked the grim tragedy that took thousands of innocent lives in Punjab for more than a decade and it was the people like Waryam Singh who were responsible. He asserted the Congress had always fought against terrorism and terrorists and would continue to do so. He reminded that It was the Prime Minister Shrimati Indira Gandhi who sacrficed her life for the unity and integrity of the country.


He also lambasted the deadlock in the talks between the Punjab Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal and the farmers organisations last night. He said at the time when farmers were committing suicides every day, Mr Badal and his government had adopted an attitude of criminal indifference towards the farmers who had been ruined, not due to natural calamity but the nexus between the ruling political class and the pesticide dealers resulting in the present catastrophe.


He made it clear that the Congress was standing like a rock with the farmers and  urged them to take  avenge their humiliation at the hands of this self-styled champion of theirs in the next Assembly election.


Mr Bajwa  said it was shocking that Mr Badal had refused to hike the compensation for the crop loss despite the fact that even the cost of input for cotton was more than Rs 8,000 per acre, the offer made by the state government which amounted to sprinkling salt on their wounds.


He claimed that the Congress had always been liberal towards the farmers and nothing could be a bigger evidence that the comparative hike  in the MSP of paddy and wheat during UPA as compared to the Modi government in which the Akali Dal was a partner.

Nayantara SahgalNew Delhi, Oct 13, 2015 (Agency)

Public lynching over a slab of meat, cold blooded murders of writers, rationalists and a wave of crimes of intolerance has led well-known Indian writers and winners of the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award, to innovatively script their dissent.


Their protest is against what they call the growing intolerance within the country and the muted response of the establishment, including the Akademi, to the series of hate crimes.


Noted writer Nayantara Sahgal's decision last week to return her Sahitya Akademi award over the public lynching in Dadri last month and the murder of rationalists in Maharashtra and Karnataka has triggered a wave of similar reactions from other awardees across the country.


Sahgal, a 1986 Sahitya Akademi awardee, said she was disturbed at the lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq,52, by a public mob at Dadri last month, after accusing him of storing beef at his home and the murder of rationalists like Narendra Dabolkar, Govind Pansare and Kannadiga writer M.M. Kalburgi over the last couple of years. 


"I have decided to return the award as I felt that it's time to speak up. I am disturbed at the Dadri killing and the killing of rationalists," Sahgal told IANS, adding that she was upset over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence on the issue.


Since her renouncement, nearly two dozen winners of the Sahitya Akademi award have emulated Sahgal, a niece of India' first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.


In Modi's home state of Gujarat, poet writer Anil Joshi joined another Vadodara-based writer Ganesh Devy, in returning his award.


"There is no breathing space and no freedom of expression for literary writers. It is like losing oxygen because we are writers who wish for free breathing space. I do not need an oxygen cylinder in the form of awards to live. The attack on the brood of literarians is unfortunate and has taken away the freedom of expression," Joshi said in a statement.


In Punjab, as many as seven writers and poets Surjit Patar, Jaswinder Singh, Baldev Singh Sadaknama Darshan Bhuttar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Gurbachan Bhullar and Canada-based writer Waryam Sandhu also gave up their respective awards, which were instituted in 1955.


In the southern state of Kerala too, poet Satchidanandan, writers P.K. Parakkadavu and K.S. Ravikumar quit all posts in the Akademi over Kalburgi's killing, while Malayalam writer Sara Joseph, who also returned the award, said that India was passing through a phase "worse than the black days of the (1975-77) emergency".


"There is a fear that has engulfed in what one eats, when one expresses love, and there is some sort of curb on what one wants to write and speak. This does not augur wella Our prime minister is a frequent flyer and gives big speeches on his trips abroad. The sad thing is that while he was away a man was beaten to death because he ate beef," Joseph said, referring to the Dadri lynching.


In New Delhi, former head of the Lalit Kala Akademi Ashok Vajpayi also returned his award, in Kashmir poet-writer Ghulam Nabi Khayal also followed suit, while in Bengaluru, well known author Shashi Deshpande has resigned from the Sahitya Akademi general council.


In Goa too, over 30 winners of the Award are expected to deliberate on Wednesday over the issue of mass renunciation.


Akademi president V.P. Tiwari, who has been criticised by the writer fraternity for his silence, insists that the situation is unprecedented.


"We are facing an unprecedented situation. At present, we do not know how to respond to those wanting to give back their awards," Tiwari said, adding that a meeting of the Akademi's council would be held on October 23 to discuss the issue.


Adding to the fire, as it were, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, who is emerging as the 

government's stormy petrel, told the Indian Express on Monday: "This is an award given by writers to writers. It has nothing to do with the government. It is their personal choice to return it...we accept it."


One thing is for sure: this is an issue that is unlikely to die down soon.


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