More than 40 writers and artists have returned top national awards in a protest against what they call a “climate of intolerance” in India over the past few weeks. Joining the army of protestors, one more renowned Urdu poet Munawwar Rana hit the headlines by justifying his decision to return Sahitya Akademi Award. I seriously feel this is the only option that the writers are left with? I am not doubting or questioning their integrity but curious to know why they all instead of lifting pen in protest and attacking politicians chose to surrender their awards? Writers in this country have not been left with any other strong methods to lodge their protest? These writers, those that have submitted their rewards back in no way indicate the sentiments of the nation. Let’s check the past, during which regime they were awarded and when nation saw these types of events like emergency, Sikh riots etc. Why these writers were not active at that time, why selective protest? What is actually bothering them?
In our country, anger politics has always played wonders. If we look at the success of Narendra Modi and BJP to power then the entire credit goes to Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare those who succeeded in creating anger in people against Congress government which has hugely benefited Modi in 2014 elections. In the same way, now these intellectual protestors are helping Congress for its comeback by creating anger against BJP-RSS. This anger politics and protest is not only dangerous but also lead the country to instability.
Writers, poets, saints, social workers and revolutionaries should keep themselves away from politics. They should not use it for securing political mileage under influence and pressure from politicians. However, irony is that they all have their personal political linkages, the current partisan and motivated action of few of these writers brought immense irreparable loss to entire literature community. If they want to do politics, they are free to do so, but they should be open to actions and reactions.
After the murder of rationalist MM Kalburgi and Narender Dabholkar many writers including Nayantara Sehgal, Ashok Vajpeyi announced that they will return their Sahitya Akademi awards. In the same row prominent Punjabi writers including Surjit Patar, Ajmer Aulakh, Atamjit, Gurbachan Bhullar, Waryam Sandhu, Jaswinder Singh, Baldev Singh Sadaknama and Darshan Bhuttar have also announced that they would give up their awards. They believe that India is a country having different languages and culture but it seems that now people have no right to express their thoughts. Sahitya Akademi is not fulfilling its proper role and intellectuals and rationalists are being killed. However, somewhere they are ignoring the fact that the writers are the voices of voiceless people and instead of returning awards, they could write a poem or article against communal politics which will be more effective as it will further raise the issue. These days, even social media is active to spread their views across people. By returning their awards literary world is not only chocking their voices but also the purpose behind those awards.
When this protest news went across the globe, Pen International has backed the dissenting writers and artists in India who are protesting against what the organization described as “a climate of growing intolerance in India”. PEN is an international organization that defends freedom of expression and advocates on behalf of writers persecuted because of their work. PEN said delegates from 73 countries from across the globe called on the government of India to “safeguard free speech as guaranteed by the Indian constitution”. The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, targeted in a deadly attack earlier this year by Islamist gunmen, was honoured in May by PEN. This follows a series of incidents of communal violence and attacks on intellectuals and rationalists in various parts of the country by groups allegedly linked to the right-wing party in power in India. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party won power in a landslide election victory in India in 2014, showing hopes and change, but day by day India landed in different crises.
I wish to mention here, in an Independence Day speech earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, “Be it casteism or communalism, there is no place for them. In no way can they be tolerated. If the unity of India is destroyed then the dreams of the people are also destroyed.” I hope, Modi remembers his own words and controls the situation in the country.