Indian writers protest against government silence on violence

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Starting from the beginning of September 2015, disgruntled writers and poets across India have started returning the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award to protest the increasing incidents of communal violence in India.[1] They believe as a climate of rising intolerance in the country under the present central government (NDA Alliance) Several elite writers and poets have also resigned their posts in the General Council of the country's top literary body, saying that they were shocked at the level of intolerance on freedom of speech and expression.

Hindi writer Uday Prakash was the first to return the prestigious award on September 4, 2015, protesting against the murder of MM Kalburgi. The two literary giants Writer Nayantara Sahgal[2] and poet Ashok Vajpeyi followed Prakash in protesting the murders of rationalists like MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar.[3][4] They also came out against the shocking Dadri incident, in which a mob lynched a Muslim man in Greater Noida over rumours of eating and storing beef.[4][5]

Sahitya akademi[edit]

List of writers who have returned their awards[edit]

As of 15 October 2015, more than 40 scholars returned their awards:[1]

S No Award winner name Title
1 Uday Prakash Hindi writer
2 Nayantara Sahgal Indian English writer
3 Ashok Vajpeyi Hindi poet
4 Sarah Joseph Malayalam novelist
5 Ghulam Nabi Khayal Kashmiri writer
6 Rahman Abbas Urdu novelist
7 Waryam Sandhu Punjabi writer
8 Gurbachan Singh Bhullar Punjabi writer
9 Ajmer Singh Aulakh Punjabi writer
10 Atamjit Singh Punjabi writer
11 GN Ranganatha Rao Kannada translator
12 Mangalesh Dabral Hindi writer
13 Rajesh Joshi Hindi writer
14 Ganesh Devy Gujarati writer
15 Srinath DN Kannada translator
16 Kumbar Veerabhadrappa Kannada novelist
17 Rahmat Tarikere Kannada writer
18 Baldev Singh Sadaknama Punjabi novelist
19 Jaswinder Punjabi poet
20 Darshan Battar Punjabi poet
21 Surjit Patar Punjabi poet
22 Chaman Lal Punjabi translator
23 Homen Borgohain Assamese journalist
24 Mandakranta Sen Bengali poet
25 Keki N Daruwalla Indian English poet
26 Nand Bhardwaj Rajasthani Hindi writer

Statements made by writers[edit]

The PM keeps quiet. Writers are being murdered, Innocents being killed and his ministers making objectionable statements

— Ashok vajpeyi[6]

The country is now passing through very though times. It's worse than Emergency

— Sarah Joseph[6]

We are going backwards. There is rising intolerance

— Nayantara Sahgal[6]

List of writers who resigned from Sahitya Akademi posts[1][edit]

No Writer name Language
1 Shashi Deshpande Kannada author
2 K Satchidanandan Malayalam poet
3 PK Parakkadvu Malayalam writer
4 Aravind Malagatti Kannada poet

Protests by Tamil writers[edit]

Sixteen Sahitya Akademi award-winning Tamil writers have condemned the Akademi for not adequately condemning the killing of Kannada writer M.K. Kalburgi and its failure to bring pressure on the Centre to protect freedom of expression.[7]

The situation has come to such pass that there was no security for the life of a writer not to mention the threat to freedom of expression. The Akademi has not condemned the act in no uncertain terms. On the contrary it has just issued a general statement. It is not adequate and we demand that the Akademi take a stronger stand,

the writers said.

The signatories are, as of October 12, 2015: Indira Parthasarathy, K. Rajanarayanan, Ponneelan, Prabanchan, Ashokamitran, Thoppil Mohamed Meeran, 'Kavikko' Abdul Rahman, Vairamuthu, Erode Tamilanban, Mu. Metha, Melanmai Ponnusamy, Puviarasu, Nanjil Nadan, Su. Venkatesan, D. Selvaraj and Poomani.

Reaction from Academy[edit]

The academy's president, Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, countered the writers' claims by saying that they are mistaken in believing that the academy was not responding to intolerance and violence, pointing out that the vice president of the academy presided over a tribute for Mr. Kalburgi in September, where his murder was strongly condemned.[8]

Other award winners[edit]

  • Six Kannada writers returned the State literary award on 3 October.
  • Theater artist Maya Krishna Rao has also returned her Sangeet Natak Akademi award on 12 October.
  • Shiromani Lekhak award winner Megh Raj Mitter has also announced to return his award.

Communal violence pointed out by the scholars[edit]

In general all the scholars protests growing intolerance of government supported Hindu right-wing groups against minorities and rationalists.[9]



  1. ^ a b c IBTimes (13 October 2015). "Sahitya Akademi protest: Complete list of writers who returned their awards". International Business Times, India Edition.
  2. ^ "Why Nayantara Sahgal Is Returning Her Sahitya Akademi Award After 29 Years". HuffPost India. 7 October 2015.
  3. ^ "Writer Nayantara Sahgal Hits Back at Sahitya Akademi Chief's 'Goodwill' Barb".
  4. ^ a b "After Nayantara Sahgal, Poet Ashok Vajpeyi Returns Award, Takes on PM".
  5. ^ a b "Dadri incident: Urdu writer to return award in protest - Times of India ►". The Times of India.
  6. ^ a b c "Culture Shock". The New Indian Express.
  7. ^ Kolappan, B. (12 October 2015). "Tamil Sahitya Akademi winners condemn the Akademi" – via
  8. ^ Barstow, David; Raj, Suhasini (17 October 2015). "Indian Writers Return Awards to Protest Government Silence on Violence" – via
  9. ^ "The Sahitya Akademi row: All you need to know". 14 October 2015.