Keeping Count of Dissenting Voices
Writers Speak Up against the Unmaking of India
“A distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, M.M. Kalburgi, and two Maharashtrians, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, both anti-superstition activists, have all been killed by gun-toting motor-cyclists. Other dissenters have been warned they are next in line. Most recently, a village blacksmith, Mohammed Akhlaq, was dragged out of his home in Bisara village outside Delhi, and brutally lynched, on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home. In all these cases, justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.” Nayantara Sahgal in her statement “Unmaking India”, published in www.indianculturalforum.in.
August 30, 2015: Kannada scholar M. M. Kalburgi assassinated
September 12, 2015: Uday Prakash returned his Akademi award saying that free speech was endangered under the NDA government. He added that “the Akademi organises a tamasha of sorts, presents you an award and forgets about you. When something like this happens, there is no word of consolation and support from them. Writers are a family but they don’t seem to care.”
October 3, 2015: Kannada writers Veeranna Madiwalar, T. Satish Javare Gowda, Sangamesh Menasinakai, Hanumanth Haligeri, Shridevi V. Aloor and Chidanand Sali returned their Kannada Sahitya Parishat awards in protest over the delay in the inquiry into rationalist M.M. Kalburgi’s killing. Veeranna Madiwalar said, “I was among the eight who was given the Aralu Prashasti… We were really proud we got the award when Kalburgi was present. We’re upset at the slow pace of the CID investigation [on M.M. Kalburgi’s murder]. We fear the probe will go the way of the other social activists, Dabholkar and Pansare, who were also killed.” T. Satish Javare Gowda said “It is a simple gesture to exert pressure on the state government to nab the culprits.” Chidanand Sali said “The CID investigation is creating doubts among Kalburgi’s followers that the culprits may not be nabbed quickly.”
October 6, 2105: Nayantara Sahgal returned her Akademi award, saying The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.”
October 7, 2105: Ashok Vajpeyi returned his Akademi award, saying “This is in solidarity with writers and intellectuals being murdered in broad daylight… Sahgal was right. He is a very loquacious Prime Minister. Why doesn’t he tell the nation that the pluralism of this country will be defended at every cost?”
October 9, 2015: Rahman Abbas returned his state Akademi award, saying “This is high time… and we cannot remain voiceless. Hence, I request senior Urdu writers, poets and critics… to register protest against murder andkilling of creative writers by returning Sahitya Academy Awards.”
October 9, 2015: T.M. Krishna wrote to the Prime Minister, saying “Words, strong and emotional words come to you easily. So why do we need to shout and scream for a few sentences about a man who was lynched for allegedly consuming beef?”
October 10, 2105: Shashi Deshpande resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General Council, saying in such a situation “silence is an abetment”.
October 10, 2015: Sara Joseph returned her state Akademi award, saying “There is a growing fear and lack of freedom under the present government… Writers are being killed, people are being killed, ghazal singers are not being allowed to perform – this is not the free India I have lived in… The Sahitya Akademi has remained silent over all of this, when it should have been the first to speak out. I am returning my award in protest…”
October 10, 2015: K. Satchidanandan resigned from the Executive Board and all other committees of the Sahitya Akademi, saying “I am sorry to find that you think this is a “political issue”; to writers like me, this is an issue of our basic freedom to live, think and write. Annihilation should never be allowed to replace argument, the very essence of democracy.”
October 10, 2015: P.K. Parakkadavu resigned from the General Council of the Sahitya Akademi, citing its failure to uphold freedom of expression.
October 10, 2015: Keki Daruwalla wrote to the Akademi President, saying “What does it [your silence] say of the Akademi as an institution and of office bearers of this institution as upholders of our literary and cultural values?
October 10, 2015: Adil Jussawalla wrote to the Akademi President, saying “I believe this is the time for it [the Akademi] to boldly state that it unequivocally supports the rights of this nation’s writers and condemns the violence used to suppress or destroy those rights.”
October 10, 2015: Mridula Garg wrote on the Prime Minister breaking his silence, saying “If that is all he [Modi} has to say and is not ready to be held accountable for the distortion of our so called ancient culture and bashing of intellectuals in word and deed by his Ministers and M.Ps, then I prefer him silent.”
October 11, 2015: Aravind Malagatti resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General Council, saying “I have resigned condemning the killing of Kalburgi and silence of Akademi over the issue. It should have spoken out and expressed its condemnation against such acts.”
October 11, 2015: Kumbar Veerabhadrappa (Kumvee) returned his Akademi award, saying “I’m doing this condemning the killings of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M. M. Kalburgi, and Akademi’s silence on the issue; also against Dadri lynching… These incidents are an attempt to destroy the diversity of this country and it signals the entry of fascism in to India.”
October 11, 2015: G.N. Devy returned his Akademi award, saying “Your moment of reckoning has come… I do this as an expression of my solidarity with several eminent writers who have recently returned their awards to highlight their concern and anxiety over the shrinking space for free expression and growing intolerance towards difference of opinion…
October 11, 2015: Mangalesh Dabral returned his Akademi award saying “Efforts must be made to ensure that several writers come together and take a collective decision to return their awards…”
October 11, 2015: Rajesh Joshi returned his Akademi award saying, with Dabral in a joint statement, “We clearly see a threat to our democracy, secularism and freedom. There have been attempts to curb free speech earlier also, but such trends have become more pronounced under the present government. These are visible all over…”
October 11, 2015: Four Punjabi writers – Gurbachan Singh Bhullar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Waryam Sandhu – returned their Akademi awards in a single day. Bhullar said he was perturbed by “…the attempts at disrupting the social fabric of the country, targeting particularly the area of literature and culture, under an orchestrated plan of action…” Aulakh said he was pained by the attacks on “progressive writers, leaders of the rational movement and the forcible saffronisation of education and culture… and the communal atmosphere being created in the country… The central government was not performing its duty as the representative of a secular and democratic country.” Atamjit Singh said he “is very upset over the incidents of communal hatred in the country for the last some months”.
October 11, 2015: A federation of Kashmiri scholars, Adbee Markaz Kamraz, too expressed solidarity with the eminent writers for their decision to return Sahitya Akademi awards, asking the top literary body to break its silence over the increasing “communal frenzy”.
October 11, 2015: G.N. Ranganath returned his Akademi award, saying he was disturbed by the recent curbs on freedom of expression.
October 11, 2015: D.N. Srinath announced he would return his translator’s award.
October 11, 2015: Nayantara Sahgal responded to the Akademi President’s remarks with a cheque for a lakh and added, “The fact that so many writers are returning their Awards or resigning from Akademi posts makes it clear how anguished we are that you have remained silent over the murder and intimidation of writers and the threat thathangs over dissent and debate.”
October 11, 2015: Aman Sethi returned his Yuva Puraskar, saying “The Akademi cannot draw its legitimacy by celebrating writers while shying clear of solidarity when they are targeted…”
October 12, 2015: N. Shivdas announced at a rally that he was returning his Akademi award, saying no action has been taken against the Sanatan Sanstha, whose members were allegedly involved in the killing of rationalists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar.
October 12, 2015: Megh Raj Mitter returned the Shiromani Lekhak, the Punjab government’s highest award for writers.
October 12, 2015: E. V. Ramakrishnan resigned from the English Advisory Board of the Sahitya Akademi.
October 12, 2015: K. S. Ravikumar resigned from the Malayalam Advisory Board of the Akademi.
October 12, 2015: C. R. Prasad resigned from the Malayalam Advisory Board of the Akademi.
October 12, 2015: Rajendra Kishore Panda invokes the constitution of the Sahitya Akademi in his letter to the Akademi President, saying one of its [the Akademi’s] prime duties is to stand by writers and scholars expressing their thoughts…”
October 12, 2015: Salman Rushdie joined the protests against the spread of “communal poison” and “rising intolerance” in the country. “I support Nayantara Sahgal and the many other writers protesting to the Sahitya Akademi. Alarming times for free expression in India,” he tweeted.
October 12, 2015: Ghulam Nabi Khayal said he was returning his award, adding that The minorities in the country are feeling unsafe and threatened. They feel their future is bleak.”
October 12, 2005: Gopalkrishna Gandhi said, “Writers returning Sahitya Akademi awards is a landmark moment… more should do so… They have spoken not just for the power of protest but also for the power of dissent… I don’t think there has been a time when three rationalists have been murdered, and the way they were, suggests a resemblance in the crimes. If writers and dissenters don’t protest, who will?
October 12, 2015: Theatre artist Maya Krishna Rao enlarges the stage of writers’ protests by adding the voices of performing artists. Her protest, she said, was against the Dadri lynching and the “rising intolerance” in the country.
October 12, 2015: Rahamat Tarikeri returned his Akademi award, protesting the recent increase in intolerance, included the Dadri lynching.
October 12, 2015: Four more writers from Punjab, Surjit Pattar, Baldev Singh Sadaknama, Jaswinder and Darshan Buttar added their voices in solidarity by announcing they were returning their awards. Pattar said “The murder of writers, scholars and thinkers in this diverse country is painful… Even more painful is that these murderers get away…”
October 12, 2015: Anil Joshi announces that he will return his Akademi award, saying “…it does not hold any importance when people like Kalburgi, (Govind) Pansare and (Narendra) Dabholkar are being killed… People who are behind these killings don’t have any respect for those holding different views and opinions. In that case, they would have killed Bhagat Singh, too, who did not believe in God, and Savarkar, who used to say that there is no need to worship cows…”
October 12, 2015: Chaman Lal returned his Akademi translation prize in solidarity with all writers of Indian languages including English.
October 13, 2015: Meena Alexander expressed solidarity with Indian writers and writes on the “Silenced Writer”.
October 13, 2015: Dalip Kaur Tiwana announced that she will return her Padma Shri, saying, “In this land of Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev, the atrocities committed on the Sikhs in 1984 and on the Muslims recurrently because of communalism are an utter disgrace to our state and society. And to kill those who stand for truth and justice put us to shame in the eyes of the world and God.”
October 13, 2015: Pradnya Pawar announced she was returning all her literary awards and the prize money to the Maharashtra state government to protest the “culture of intolerance” in the country. She added, “We are living in an era of undeclared emergency.”
October 13, 2015: Govind Nihlani spoke out in support of the writers, saying, “The situation of the days of ‘Tamas’, which saw the great divide and displacement of thousands has not changed. In fact, the fissures in society have grown and the manipulation of the vulnerable has increased.”
October 13, 2015: Bhai Baldeep Singh announced that he would return the Parman Patra conferred on him for his contributions to classical music and gurbani sangeet, to protest “the lack of appropriate response to warn off those who have been perpetrating crimes against humanity”.
October 13, 2015: Homen Borgohain announced he would return his Akademi award in protest against the Dadri incident, and attacks on minorities, liberal writers and rational thinkers. He also expressed his anguish over the growing fascist tendency in the country. A silent protest he said, had been going on inside him since the Dadri killing took place.
October 13, 2015: Nirupama Borgohain announced she would return her Akademi award to express disapproval of growing intolerance, saying “Religious intolerance has reached extreme level. But the leader of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not assured us to stop it and he is remaining silent. It is as if he is encouraging fascism to grow…”
October 13, 2015: Mandakranta Sen announced that she would return her young writers’ special award from the Akademi to protest against the Dadri lynching, and growing intolerance and communalism.
October 13, 2015: Marathi writers Harishchandra Thorat, Sanjay Bhaskar Joshi and Ganesh Visputay returned their Maharashtra state government awards, saying there was an emergency-like situation in the country.
October 14, 2015: Keki Daruwalla returned his Akademi award, saying “… in recent months it [the Akademi] has not stood up as boldly as it should for values that any literature stands for, namely freedom of expression against threat, upholding the rights of the marginalised, speaking up against superstitions and intolerance of any kind…. That Dr. M.M. Kalburgi, a Sahitya Akademi prize winner should be killed for no other reason except his rationalist views is something that cannot pass muster without some protest from brother authors.
October 14, 2015: Nayantara Sahgal issued a statement on www.indianculturalforum.in
October 14, 2015: Expressing concern over rising communal polarization and intolerance, 100 intellectuals from West Bengal intellectuals on Wednesday wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee, saying that the Modi government should take a tough stand against fundamentalists.”The composite culture is the essence (of the Indian society) but concerted efforts are on to destroy this. A dangerous game of communal polarisation is being played, the result of which are the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, leftist Govind Pansare and scholar M.M. Kalburgi,” the 100 intellectuals and authors, including eminent poets Shankha Ghosh and Nabaneeta Dev Sen, said.”Be it the lynching in Dadri or cancelling (ghazal maestro) Ghulam Ali’s concert or blackening senior journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face for hosting a book launch of (ex-Pakistani foreign minister) Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, all are an example of this dangerous game of communal polarisation,” they said.”This is not the voice of a few authors or intellectuals but of the common people of our society who are now living in fear and apprehension,” added Sahitya Akademi Award winning author Nabaneeta Dev Sen. On October 15th, another 63 intellectuals added their names to the letter.
October 14, 2015: The Goa Konkani Lekhak Sangh (GKLS) plans a series of demonstrations during the International Film Festival of India in Goa to condemn the murder of rationalists and writers in the country. Fifteen of the Konkani award winners, along with Padma Shri writer and academic Maria Couto, plan the protests to highlight their concerns before national and international delegates visiting the state for the 46th edition of the film festival. N. Shivdas, who had earlier announced that he will return his award, also plans to join the collective protest. “The trend of attacking people with creative temperament is not limited to a specific region but across nation…he (Prime Minister Modi) should give us an assurance that such incidents will not recur and the killers will be brought to justice,” said Shivdas.
October 14, 2015: Mohan Bhandari confirmed his decision to return his Akademi award in solidarity with the nationwide protest by writers against growing intolerance and killing of writers in Karnataka. He said, “It pains me to see growing intolerance and communalism against which we writers have always raised a strong voice in our writings. Returning the award is a way of bringing attention to the disturbing conditions prevailing in the country today.”
October 14, 2015: 40 Punjabi writers and theatre artists staged a protest in Chandigarh against the suppression of freedom of speech, and to express solidarity with those who have returned state awards. The number of awards returned in Punjab is the highest in the country. The group of 40 people included Mohan Bhandari, Chaman Lal, Meg Raj Mitter, Hardev Chauhan, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, and Harjinder Kaur, chairperson, Punjab Arts Council. The highlight of the protest was 78-year-old Mohan Bhandari’s announcement to return his SahityaAkademi award.
October 14, 2015: Noted constitutional expert Fali S Nariman said it was high time Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke against the “plague of intolerance spreading rapidly across the country” and those using “violent methods to stymie free speech and dissent” were brought to book.
October 15, 2015: Hardev Chauhan, who has returned an NCERT (National Council for Education, Research and Training) award for children’s writing, said he would also return his Shiromani Bal Sahit Lekhak award.
October 14, 2015: Class 11 student, Muddu Thir Thahalli of Sahyadri High School returned her Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award that she received for a collection of essays in 2011. She said it was to protest the killing of M.M. Kalburgi. She added, “Curtailment of freedom of expression is bad. Literature is a medium to express one’s opinions. There should be no curbs on free speech and writing.”
October 15, 2015: Chikkappanahalli Shanmukha, Principal Correspondent with Kannada Prabha newspaper, announced in a Facebook post that he would return the Madhyama Academy award in protest against the delay in apprehending the assailants of writer MM Kalburgi.
October 15, 2015: Nand Bharadwaj announced that he will return his Akademi award. The noted Rajasthani and Hindi writer and former director of Doorsarshan said, “It is sad to witness the silence of the Akademi over the increasing number of attacks on writers.”
October 15, 2015: Sahitya Akademi Award winning writers from Goa, including Nagesh Karmali, Novelist Damodar Mauzo, Pundalik Naik, N. Shivdas, Datta Damodar Naik, Ramesh Veluskar, Meena Kakodkar, Hema Naik, Dilip Borkar, Gokuldas Prabhu, Mahabaleshwar Sail, Prakash Padgaonkar, Arun Sakhardande, Tukaram Seth, Padmashri awardee Maria Aurora Couto, and Amitav Ghosh strongly condemned the rising trend of intolerance in the country, saying this was a threat to freedom of expression,and the age-old liberal and all-encompassing philosophical traditions of this country. In a joint statement issued at a press conference, the writers said, “We are greatly disturbed by the recent murders of the rationalist intellectuals: Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi followed by the recent lynching of a Muslim over suspected beef eating. The right wing fanatics have disrupted the music concert and book publication of the Pakistani musician and writer.During the last eighteen months in particular the rabid fundamentalist forces have torn apart composite cultural mosaic of this country. If not contained, they will turn this country into agraveyard of creativity. This will kill scientific temperament and literary and cultural renaissance, ultimately stalling the economic progress of this nation.”
October 16, 2015: 73 Sociologists registered their strong protest against “any attempt to impose a uniform belief or practice, on either individuals or communities” as “antithetical to the freedom enshrined in the Constitution. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure this freedom.” They added that they were “extremely worried about the implications of these recent developments for our ability to study and write about different life ways, and to critically analyse society, including social phenomena like religion.”
October 16, 2015: Sahitya Akademi award winner and Telugu writer M. Bhoopal Reddy, announced he will return his Akademi award to express solidarity with protests against the “growing intolerance in the country”. He will also return his Ugadi Puraskaram award given by the Telangana Government to register his protest against the “indifference” of the state government to the growing number of farmer suicides. “They have increased since the new Government came to power, but the Government is more interested in spending money on building temples and other insignificant things,” he said.
October 17, 2015: K. Katyayani announced that she was returning her Akademi award in protest against “diminishing constitutional protection” for freedom of choice. The Telugu writer said “The violence that is being allowed by the Union government against beliefs of a particular section of the society was nothing but another form of state supported violence… I have great respect for the Constitution. I also believe that rights of people must be protected. Remaining a mute spectator when right of some are being crushed is not possible.”
October 17, 2015: Vikram Seth said that if the Sahitya Akademi continues to be “mealy-mouthed” on the issue of freedom of speech raised by writers after the Akademi meeting on October 23rd, all bets are off”, and he may return his Akademi award.
October 18, 2015: Urdu writer Munawwar Rana returned his Akademi award, saying he was dismayed by recent developments in the country.
October 18, 2015: Hindi writer Kashinath returned his Akademi award in protest against “irresponsible” comments by various writers returning awards to protest growing intolerance.
October 19, 2015: Danish Husain returned his Ustad BIsmillah Khan Yuva Puraskar award from the Sangeet Natak Akademi, saying “By returning this award, I am stating that I am not going to relinquish the public space. I am reclaiming my voice in the public debate… We cannot watch our public discourse be hijacked by hateful bigotry. We all have a collective responsibility in protesting this trend.”
October 19, 2015: Thirteen writers and artists from Gujarat and ten writers and artists from Maharashtra added their names to the statement from Bengali intellectuals on October 14th.
315 (writers, performing artists and others) have spoken up in one way or the other, and so has the Adbee Markaz Kamraz, a federation of 25 literary and cultural organizations from North Kashmir, and the Goa Konkani Lekhak Sangh.
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