SAHITYA AKADEMI REVOLT & MY 25 QUESTIONS
Returning of Award by awardees in recent times has raised few questions in my mind and I wish to share it with you, maybe I will be able to find the answers with your help.
The Sahitya Akademy was formally inaugurated on 12th March 1954. Though the Akademi was set up by the Government, it functions as an autonomous organization. It is registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. The Akademi gives 24 awards annually to literary works in the languages it has recognized. It also gives 24 awards to literary translations from and into the languages of India. As per the information provided by the Akademi, these Awards are given after a year-long process of scrutiny, discussion and selection.[i]
Before discussing the subject we must understand that an award is a prize or other reward that is given to someone who has achieved something.[ii] In a layman’s language, an award is something given to a person to recognize his/her excellence in a certain field; it is a certificate of excellence.
The Sahitya Akademi Award (hereinafter referred to as ‘Award’) is a prestigious national award having its own popularity & stature in the field of literature. Writers from different languages, regions and economic backgrounds put in their days & nights to carve out a niche for themselves in the field of literature, in their respective languages, to achieve this prestigious Award. This Award has been the source of motivation for people involved in literary activities since its inception. When we say ‘motivation’, people try to achieve the standard which qualifies them for this Award.
This sudden wave of returning the Award arose after an inhuman incidence which took place in Dadri, U.P. wherein a man from Muslim community was lynched to death by an unruly mob. There is no doubt that the incidence was unacceptable and that the people involved in the crime should be severely punished. There have been protests across the country regarding the incidence in different manners but the mode of protest chosen by these writers is strange. The primary reason given by these writers for returning the Awards has been to protest against the Union Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi under whom they believe that an atmosphere of intolerance has been created within the country. Alternatively in their views, it can be said that PM Narendra Modi is solely responsible for Dadri and likewise incidences throughout the country, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Kutch to Anjaw in Arunachal.
On the other hand, fingers have been raised upon these writers by Mr. Arun Jaitley. According to him large number of these writers have inclination towards Left or Nehruvian thinking who have been recognized by the previous Governments and have enjoyed their patronage. Such writers are now uncomfortable with the present government. Hence, these writers are the part of ‘a manufactured revolt’ against the Central Government. He further alleges that this manufactured revolt is a case of an ideological intolerance towards BJP. In his words –
“With Congress showing no signs of revival and an insignificant Left lacking legislative relevance, the recipients of past patronage are now resorting to “politics by other means”. The manufactured protest of the writers is one such case.”
If the writers want me to pay attention to their cause, as a neutral party I must also heed what Mr. Arun Jaitley is saying. If I am being compelled to believe, by the whole episode, that there is indeed an atmosphere of intolerance in the country induced by PM Modi, I must also hear what the accused has to say on the issue. By his allegations Mr. Arun Jaitley clearly means that Awards are being returned with mala fide intention, in favor of Congress and Left parties. He also means in my view that the Awards were conferred upon these writers as a consequence of their lobbying and due to their loyalty towards the previous governments.
The timing and mode of protest of these writers make their conduct questionable and indeed it seems to be inclined towards a specific political ideology with so many unanswered questions floating in public domain.
There’s an old saying - ‘PEN is mightier than Sword’. The best way to protest against the Dadri Lynching would have been to protest by “Writing”, but they chose to ignore their own core competency. Whatsoever be the outcome and consequence of this entire episode, it is only ‘Literature’ which will bear the brunt of this irresponsible behavior of these writers in the long run.
Having discussed the issue at length, here are my 25 QUESTIONS to the writers who have returned their Award:-
- If PM is solely responsible for all the incidences that take place anywhere in India then why PM Modi should be blamed for Gujarat riots that took place when he was CM of the State? If Mr. Akhilesh Yadav and Congress CM of Karnataka is exempted from ownership of what happens in their State, why differential treatment with CM hailing from BJP ruled States by these writers?
- I wish to understand the reason why these writers chose not to return the Award during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime when Gujarat riots took place. Was situation in Gujarat (in 2002) WITHIN the PERMISSIBLE LIMIT of tolerance for these Sahitya Akademi Awardees?
- Why didn’t these writers return the Award after the Muzaffarnagar riots? Congress led UPA Government was at the Center and the same Akhilesh Yadav Government was ruling State. Did these writers feel that the law and order was a STATE SUBJECT during the Muzaffarnagar riots and NOW it is the responsibility of the Center?
- Why awards were NOT returned when Babri masjid was demolished or when FATWA curtailing the freedom of writers were issued by clerics from time to time?
- Killing is killing but when the writers feel that religion specific killing is more horrific, were Hindus and Jews not purposefully targeted in 26/11, in this country itself? Why didn’t these writers return their awards protesting against Maharashtra government as well as the Central Government? Wasn’t it the failure of the State and the Central Governments, both led by the Congress Party? Do they place one religion above another?
- Why didn’t their conscious wake up when Mr. N. Dabholkar, a rationalist was murdered in the Congress ruled Government of Maharashtra?
- Why didn’t they protest when a Hindu journalist was burnt to death in UP wherein a minister from the ruling party of the State was accused for the incidence? Where these writers were when the family of the deceased was running from pillars to post demanding CBI enquiry and the same UP government did nothing, leave alone compensating with flats and 4.5 million rupees?
- How many of these writers have protested against Mr. Azam Khan’s communal statements which was even opposed by politicians like Owaisi? Is Mr. Azam Khan’s statements in view of these writers creating an environment of communal harmony? I hope they do not hold PM Modi responsible for what Azam Khan speaks and does.
- What is the criteria of assessing the involvement of a Prime Minister in local incidences that happen in a remote village somewhere in India? Only because I feel warm in winters doesn’t mean the season has changed its pattern?
- What have these writers achieved by returning the Award? They must give a clear answer!
- Do these writers consider themselves above the Award conferred to them?
- Should not there be a punishment for insulting an Award in larger interest of development in the field of literature, as such acts erode the respect of the acknowledgment someone else works, dreams and longs for?
- Do these writers have a grudge against the Sahitya Akademi Society and Dadri and likewise incidences are just an excuse? Why these writers are focusing on Sahitya Akademi Awards only?
- How do these writers expect us to appreciate the credibility of the Award which is being returned by them? In other words, if the writers themselves don’t have respect for the Award then why should we give respect to the same?
- Will these writers take back their Awards after the tenure of the Modi Government is over at the Center?
- How do these writers think that by returning the Award given to them by the previous governments will impact the credibility of Modi government?
- Do these writers realize that the consequence of ridiculing the Award will deeply affect the dignity of the writers who have earned these Awards on merits?
- Do these writers want that no Award shall be given for literary work during the tenure of the Modi Government or do these writers want the Sahitya Akademi to close forever?
- Even if we agree for a moment that an atmosphere of intolerance has been created by the Modi government, then isn’t the returning of the Awards by the writers reflecting the level of intolerance on their part?
- Shouldn’t these writers be non-aligned with political parties and use their skills for the betterment of the society? Have they lost faith in their Pen?
- If Anna Hazare can peacefully protest for a cause and create a mass movement of ‘India Against Corruption’ then why couldn’t these writers come together and protest by means of ‘Dharna’ for their cause rather than by returning the Award? This would have reflected their tolerance & patience and would encourage the democratic method of protesting within the country.
- What made these writers believe that the only method for protesting available to them was to return the Award, that too partially?
- Will the Award equally motivate people in years to come?
- Has the Award not lost its charm and credibility? I ask so because now this can be compared to the situation wherein people’s interest in watching cricket matches took a nose dive after knowing about ‘Match-Fixing’ incidences. We all are aware of the Indian Premier League (IPL) scam and how IPL has lost its credentials in recent times, evident by withdrawal of sponsorship by Pepsi. Similarly, it can also be compared to the recent ‘Vyapam Scam’ wherein even the students selected on merits are looked upon suspiciously.
- Since an Award is recognition of merit, honoring an award is no different than respecting oneself. Should not these writers respect at least their own dignity?
If the abovementioned questions go unanswered, we should have no hesitation in saying that writers who have returned the Award have set a new benchmark of HYPOCRISY.