Writer Nayantara Sahgal, who is the niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, has returned her Sahitya Akademi award to protest the Modi government's failure to safeguard the cultural diversity of the country, said reports.
Returning the award she had received in 1986, Sahgal said the government failed to protect people who spoke against Hindutva, according to TV reports.
She said that the Modi government could not safegaurd India's cultural diversity and condemned murder of Kannada scholar MM Kalburgi and Maharashtrian rationalists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar.
Sahgal also slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for being silent over the Dadri lynching incident, where a mob killed Mohammed Akhlaq in Greater Noida over beef eating rumours.
Her statement, titled "Unmaking of India", was published on Indian Cultural Forum website. Here is the full text of Sahgal's statement.
In a recent lecture, India's Vice-President, Dr. Hamid Ansari, found it necessary to remind us that India's Constitution promises all Indians "liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship."The right to dissent is an integral part of this Constitutional guarantee. He found it necessary to do so because India's culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault. Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva – whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle – are being marginalized, persecuted, or murdered. A distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, M.M. Kalburgi, and two Maharashtrians, Narendra Dhabolkar 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. It is a matter of sorrow that the Sahitya Akademi remains silent. The Akademis were set up as guardians of the creative imagination, and promoters of its finest products in art and literature, music and theatre. In protest against Kalburgi's murder, a Hindi writer, Uday Prakash, has returned his Sahitya Akademi Award. Six Kannada writers have returned their Awards to the Kannada Sahitya Parishat.
In memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award."