A Hindutva group in Aligarh reportedly performed a yagya, a ritual done around a fireplace, in order to 'cleanse' the minds of writers who have returned Sahitya Akademi awards in recent weeks. 

The Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha called the protesting writers 'desh drohis' (traitors) and performed the 'Buddhi Shuddhi' yagya on Sunday to 'cleanse' their minds, The Times of India reported. 

About 40 writers, including Nayantara Sahgal and Shashi Deshpande, have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards in protest against the Dadri lynching and the murder of Kannada writer and rationalist MM Kalburgi. 

They have claimed that freedom of thought and right to dissent were under threat and accused the Modi government at the Centre of letting intolerance fester in the country. 

However, the writers have come under attack from Hindutva and nationalist groups, with the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha accusing them of bringing shame to the nation.

"Buddhi Shuddhi yagya was conducted so that divine powers restore some sense to our so-called intellectuals who are returning awards. This gesture is bringing shame upon the whole nation. They are guilty of desh droh," Pooja Shakun Pandey, national secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, was quoted as saying. 

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu also hit out at the writers, asking them to keep the country's image in mind.