It started in early September when Hindi writer Uday Prakash returned the Sahitya Akademi award he won in 2010 for the novella Mohandas, to protest against the Akademi’s “indifference” over the murder of intellectuals such as M M Kalburgi. Nearly three dozen writers have since returned their prizes to the Akademi. Punjabi writer Dalip Kaur Tiwana has returned her Padma Shri. It has been called a manufactured “paper rebellion against the government in the wake of a manufactured crisis”. Did these writers protest against the Emergency, 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Bhagalpur riots of 1989, or the UPA corruption, they have been asked.
The fact is many among the writers in focus — from Malayalam writer Sarah Joseph to Punjabi writer Baldev Singh Sadaknama — do have a history of questioning the state. Take the case of Ajmer Singh Aulakh, a 73-year-old Punjabi writer from Mansa, a town in Punjab’s cotton belt. Aulakh, who was jailed during the Emergency and whose plays on the agrarian crisis offer a sharp critique of the State, feels “our freedom of speech and independent thinking has been violated”. He wants writers to come together and speak out against religious intolerance. Anil Joshi, a Mumbai-based Gujarati writer, had returned the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi award he won in 1990 when a schoolgirl was set afire by her classmate in the presence of teachers. Joshi seems to think there is a pattern in the murders of M M Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare. Others like Punjabi author Waryam Singh Sandhu, who was jailed by the Congress government during the Emergency, believe “these are dangerous times” and writers must join hands and fight.
As the accompanying profiles reveal, there is very little in common between, say, Kannada author Rahamat Tarikere and his better known peers such as Nayantara Sahgal and Kashinath Singh other than their questioning the immorality of the politically and socially powerful people. Every Indian language is a little India home to many such instinctively rebellious writers who believe it is their duty to respond when there is injustice. Rajasthani writer Ambika Dutt recalled Munshi Premchand’s words to put the protests in perspective: “Literature is not something which follows politics, but leads it like a torch”.
By Amrith Lal
Munawwar Rana, 62(URDU)A cancer survivor, Rana participates in mushairas across India and abroad, and runs a transport business , earning around Rs 2.5 lakh a month. He was made president of the Uttar Pradesh Udru Akademi in 2014 but resigned, alleging corruption. In 2004, he dedicated his poem Rukhsati hote hi maa baap ko bhool gayi to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. A few months ago, he was seen at a UPCC function. But he denies political affiliations, pointing out that he also wrote about Tarun Vijay (former editor of RSS mouthpiece Panchajanya).
His published work includes collections of shayari, ghazals and nazms. His other popular works include Muhajirnama and Baghair Nakshe Ka Makaan. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2014 for Shahdaba. The Bengal Urdu Akademi has also awarded him for contribution to Urdu.
I protested because: “Some said that artistes got awards due to sycophancy… I also had strong objection to Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Arun Jaitley’s remarks. Artists are fakirs but kings of their own world and no wazir can interfere there.”
SARAH JOSEPH, 69(MALAYALAM)
Joseph worked as a schoolteacher and later Malayalam professor, even as she launched Manushi, an organisation against gender-based discrimination. A Left sympathiser, Joseph joined AAP in 2014 and fought the Lok Sabha elections from her hometown of Thrissur.
Joseph has written six novels and several short stories. Her most well-known novel is Aalahayude Penmakkal (Daughters of God, the Father). The novel was part of a trilogy that includes Maathathi and Othappu. Some of her works have been translated into English.
She won the Sahitya Akademi award for Aalahayude Penmakkal in 2003, as well as the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award.
I protested because: “I returned the award as a mark of protest against the prevailing terror-like situation in the country. Fear is growing everywhere. Writers are murdered and the right to eat what one wants is denied. Plurality of society is at stake.”
Krishna Sobti, 90(HINDI)
Among the most respected women writers of India, Sobti has written pathbreaking fiction in a language that effortlessly evokes Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu.
She has several novels and memoirs to her credit. Her fiction features strong women characters marked with a clear desire to assert their existence. An extremely vocal writer, she has taken a stand on several issues, including the 1984 riots and never shied away from targeting fellow writers.
Sobti never received any post from any government, even declined the Padma Bhushan the UPA had announced for her.
She received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1980 for novel Zindaginama, besides the Shalaka Award and the Sahitya Akademi fellowship. She returned the fellowship also.
I protested because: “The country cannot afford Dadri and Babri. This government insults intellectuals, does not want to give us a right to speak against them.”
Nayantara Sahgal, 88(English)A niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, Nayantara Sahgal has never been an establishment favourite. She was a vocal critic of her cousin Indira Gandhi and resigned from the Sahitya Akademi’s advisory board during the Emergency. A founding member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, she was vice-president of the body during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Her books include Indira Gandhi: Tryst With Power, which is a scathing assessment of Gandhi and the Emergency. Sahgal, who was educated mainly in Dehradun and the US, has nine novels and eight works of non-fiction to her credit.
A recipient of the Sinclair Prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, she won the Sahitya Akademi award for her novel Rich Like Us, in 1986.
I protested because: “Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva — whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle — is being persecuted, or murdered,” she said, returning the award.
Kumbara Veerabhadrappa(Kannada)Kum Vee is considered a rebel in Kannada literature. His stories revolve around the feudal world he experienced while growing up in the impoverished region of Kottur on the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border. A post-graduate degree holder in the arts, Kum Vee worked as a schoolteacher alongside writing 13 novels, over 15 collections of short stories, and an autobiography as well as translating Telugu stories into Kannada over the last 40 years. His novel Bete was adapted into the 1987 Kannada movie Manamechhida Hudugi. His short story Koormavatara was adapted into a National Award-winning movie of the same name. His novel Aramane won him the Sahitya Akademi award in 2007.
I protested because: “Intolerance is rising. Followers of Sanatan dharma have entered public life and progressive thinkers are being abused. The BJP’s agenda is Hindi, Hindu, Hindutva. We are protesting against the attacks on minorities. I was 19 years old during Emergency. I drew cartoons in protest at the time.”
Anil Joshi, 76(GUJARATI/MARATHI)
In 1990, Joshi returned the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi award he won the same year after a schoolgirl was set on fire by her classmate in the presence of teachers. He felt the inclusion of his book of poems — for which he won the award — in the school curriculum was “meaningless” as they “had taught children no lesson”. He had also resigned as vice-chairman of the Maharashtra Rajya Gujarati Sahitya Akademi in the 1990s after Balasaheb Thackeray said writers were “saleable bulls of the bazaar”.
He published his first Gujarati poetry collection, Kadach, in 1970, after which he moved to Mumbai. In 1982, he published Baraf na Pankhi. Has authored a collection of children’s stories, Chakli Bole Chi Chi Chi. He won the 1990 Sahitya Akademi award for his collection of 20 essays titled Statue (1988), and the Gujarat Sahitya Akademi award for his essays Pavan ni Vyaspitha.
I protested because : “The hateful atmosphere has left no breathing space for literary writers. I do not need an oxygen cylinder in the form of awards to live.”
N Shivdas, 65 (Konkani/Marathi)A Konkani writer and a retired teacher, Shivdas has also dabbled in Marathi literature. For over three decades, he has been leading a movement for open access to Goan temples for all sections of society — one of his demands when he returned the award. He has written over 400 short stories, three Marathi novels and 20 books in Konkani. His poem Chedi (2011), about sex workers, invited the ire of the local women’s collective that demanded he give up his post as Goa’s Sahitya Akademi chairman. In his 20s, he worked for the Congress and was a party general secretary and spokesperson. He is no longer an active member. He won the Sahitya Akademi in 2005 for his anthology of Konkani short stories, titled Bhangarsall. His books Kansari and Maharukh had earlier earned him two state Akademi awards.
I protested because: “Writers and rationalists like Dabholkar, Pansare and more recently, Kalburgi have been murdered and there has been no action on part of the government. Sanatan Sanstha, which is said to have threatened and attacked them, is headquartered in my village.”
Ganesh Devy, 65(GUJARATI)A linguist, activist and academic, Devy’s diverse portfolio boasts of fellowships at the University of Leeds and Yale University, and professorship at the English department of M S University of Baroda. He founded the Bhasha Research and Publication Centre and Adivasi Academy at Tejgadh for the study of tribal communities in Gujarat.
“I got government recommendation on Foreign Contribution Regulation Act with the help of George Fernandes and L K Advani,” says Devy. He is the Chair of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, which has documented 780 Indian languages. His Sahitya Akademi-winning book After Amnesia (1992) analyses the impact of colonialism on Indian knowledge tradition. His book Countering Violence (2008) analyses the post-Babri rise of violence. In 1975, he produced an anti-Emergency periodical. He won the Padma Shri for his work on denotified tribes and reviving dying languages.
I protested because: “I wanted to express solidarity with writers who have returned awards in the wake of the shrinking space for free expression and growing intolerance towards difference of opinion.”
Gurbachan s Bhullar, 78(PUNJABi)Author of short stories and biographies, Bhullar has also written a book on literary criticism, Punjabi Kahani Yatra, and around a dozen books for children. He has translated more than a dozen works of Urdu, Russian, English and Hindi writers, and numerous journalistic pieces. He lives in Delhi. Agni-Kalas, Opra Mard, Vakhtan Maare and Teeji Gull are some of his finest novels. His Virla Vichon Chaakda Hanera, a collection of short stories, deals with the 1984 riots. His Sunday editorials in the Punjabi Tribune have been compiled into a book, Qalam Kataar. He has also edited two anthologies of Punjabi short stories and has a collection of short stories in Urdu. Won the Sahitya Akademi award for his short story collection, Agni-Kalas, in 2005.
I protested because: “Nothing is manufactured about our protest. When someone as intelligent as Mr Jaitley uses such low words for us, it is someone else speaking through him. Now that is manufactured. We have done enough work during the 1984 riots. The difference is that I had no award to return at that time.”
Ajmer Singh Aulakh, 73(Punjabi)For over four decades, Aulakh has written and directed plays about the plight of farmers in Punjab. Known as a “rural dramatist” with Leftist leanings, Aulakh was born in a family of farmers in Kishangadh Pharwahi, Bathinda district, and worked as a lecturer of Punjabi at Nehru Memorial College, Mansa, for 35 years. Aulakh runs a theatre group, Lok Kala Manch, in Mansa. Reacting to remarks that writers did not return awards during the Emergency, he says,”I was in the jail for a month during the Emergency, for I spoke openly against it.”
His plays Turi Wala Kotha and Begane Bohar Di Chhan chronicle the struggle of farmers in villages of Malwa region of Punjab. He won the Sahitya Akademi Award and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2007 for his collection of short plays, Ishk Baj Namaz Da Haz Nahi.
I protested because: “Our freedom of speech and independent thinking has been violated, and the Prime Minister has remained silent. The killers of writers are roaming free. Where are we heading? I am returning the award as a mark of solidarity with other writers.”
ATAMJIT, 65(Punjabi)Amritsar-born Atamjit is a playwright, director and theatre scholar. He retired as Principal of ASSM College, Mukandpur, in November 2010. He lives in Mohali and is involved in research, writing and theatre projects. He began his literary and theatre journey in 1975, and has written over three dozen plays including Kabristan, Pallu di Udeek, Relgaddi and Chabian. Also a renowned theatre director, Atamjit has a theatre group, Manchan Arts and Research Centre, in Mohali. In his plays, Atamjit explores Punjabi community’s history. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2009 for Tatti Tawi Da Sach, based on the martyrdom of the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev.
I protested because: “My decision to give back the award is not only against the inaction of the government, but also against the actions of those who don’t wish to see India as a model country, and against the insensitivities of the officials of the Akademi. Most writers are anti-establishment, so it’s easy for regressive forces to term their progressive attitude as their affiliation with the Left. I don’t have any political affiliation.”
Baldev S Sadaknama, 73(Punjabi)Sadaknama’s journey has criss-crossed professions and cities. Born in village Chand Nawaan, Moga, Punjab, he taught at government schools in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, before moving to Kolkata where he spent 18 years working as a truck cleaner, taxi driver and truck operator. He returned to Punjab in 1985 and began writing about his experiences on the road under the column Sadaknama in Amrita Pritam’s magazine Nagmani. Sadaknama later became his alias, and the stories in his column were compiled into a three-volume novel. He has written over 55 novels. His novel Annadaata, about the plight of farmers in Punjab, is part of Punjabi literature curriculum in Guru Nanak Dev University and Punjabi University. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2011 for Dhahwan Dilli De Kingre.
I protested because: “The Akademi has not spoken up when needed. It’s a family, and if any member is hurt, other members need to help. I earn my living through my writings, pay my tax, and want to write freely without any threat. I am returning the award to ensure that freedom, respect.”
Mohan Bhandari, 78(Punjabi)Born in Sangrur district, Punjab, Bhandari retired from the state education department in 1995. Deeply influenced by Russian writers such as Tolstoy, Gorky, Chekhov and Urdu writers such as Manto, Bhandari’s writings reflect the changing face of Punjab’s rural society. He lives in Chandigarh and is writing his autobiography. Bhandari has to his credit seven collections of short stories and five books of stories translated from Hindi and Urdu. Some of his popular works include Til-Chouli, Kaathi di Latt and Gora Basha. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1997 for a collection of short stories, Moon di Akh. In 1967, he won the Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi award.
I protested because: “Returning the award is a way of bringing attention to the disturbing conditions prevailing in the country today. We have to think and speak against this violence and suppression of our creative freedom. Nobody can suppress the country’s secular spirit.”
Darshan Buttar, 61(Punjabi)Buttar, often called the “big poet of short poems”, lives in Nabha, a city in Patiala district. After retiring as a manager from Punjab and Sind Bank, Nabha, Buttar says he lives on a monthly pension of Rs 30,000. Buttar, who began writing when he was in college, has authored six books of poetry. He wrote extensively during the 1984 riots, his angst reflecting in the six anthologies that he put together — Aur de Badal; Salaabi Hawa; Shabd, Shehar te Ret, Khadhawan; Dard Majithi and Maha Kambini. His subjects range from the plight of women and farmers to globalisation and corruption. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2012 for his poetry collection, Maha Kambani.
In 2007, the Amarinder Singh government honoured him with the Shiromani Punjabi Poet award.
I protested because: “The ink from our pens is now being smeared on our faces. They ask us where were we during the riots. We were very much here, writing furiously, and that is how we’ve got a following of readers. Why is the PM silent? Why is nothing being done to tackle this blatant fundamentalism?”
Jaswinder Singh, 60 (Punjabi)Jaswinder Singh started writing poems in Punjabi in the early seventies. He was heavily influenced by revolutionary poet Sant Ram Udasi and Hindi poet Dushayant Kumar. After a diploma in electrical engineering from GTB Polytechnic College near Kotkapura, Faridkot, Jaswinder worked at the Ropar thermal plant and retired in January this year. He also writes ghazals. Although influenced by Marxism, he says he was ‘a sympathiser and never an activist’. Singh now lives in Canada. Known for his jujharu kavita or revolutionary poems, Singh has authored three books — Kaale Harfan di Lo, Kakki Ret de Warke and Agarbatti. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2014 for his ghazal anthology Agarbatti, his third book of Punjabi poetry.
I protested because: “For a month after Kalburgi’s death, no government agency or the Akademi came forward to criticise this horrific tragedy. For a writer, it is very difficult to return an award. But it’s also not wise to keep it because he has to join the fight.”
SURJIT PATAR, 71(Punjabi)Born in Jalandhar, Patar retired as professor of Punjabi from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The Patiala-based poet started writing in the mid-60s, drawing inspiration from art, daily life and politics. His works of poetry include Hawa vich Likhe Harf, Birkh Arz Kare and Hanere Vich Sulagdi Varnmala and Surzameen. He has translated many literary works into Punjabi, including the poems of Bertolt Brecht and Pablo Neruda and also adapted plays by Jean Giradoux, Euripides and Racine. In Birkh Arz Kre, an anthology of poems, he reflected on the insurgency of the 1980s and wrote a ghazal against the Emergency. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1993 for Hanere Vich Sulghdi Varnmala, an anthology of poems. In 1979, he received the Punjab Sahitya Akademi Award for Hawa Vich Likhe Harf. In 2012, he was awarded the Padma Shri.
I protested because: “The Sahitya Akademi should be a voice for the country. Instead, it remained silent and did not even hold a condolence meeting after Kalburgi’s killing.”
CHAMAN LAL, 68(Punjabi)Translator and editor, Chaman Lal has written and researched extensively on Bhagat Singh, Indian Dalit literature and the history of revolutionary freedom struggles. He did his MA in Hindi, Punjabi and Linguistics and PhD in Hindi from JNU in Delhi. He was Chairperson, Centre of Indian Languages, JNU, and retired as professor of Hindi Translation, JNU, in 2013. He won the Sahitya Akademi Translation Prize in 2002 for the Hindi translations of Punjabi poet Pash in the collection Samay O Bhai Samay. He was also given the National Award by the Central Hindi Directorate (2001) and the Shiromani Hindi Sahityakar Award (2003) by the Punjab government.
I protested because: ”I have been part of a progressive movement in literature, which always protested against social or state repression through writings. By returning this prize amount and honour, I am upholding the spirit of Pash’s poetry. I stand with fellow writers who have spoken against communal hatred, attack on institutions of knowledge, attack on freedom of ideas and their expression fearlessly.”
Waryam Singh Sandhu, 70(PUNJABI)Sandhu, a former Punjabi teacher at a government school, first wrote when riots rocked his village, Sursingh, in Amritsar district. He wrote Bhajian Bahin after witnessing the 1984 riots. His writings are drawn from his own experiences — be it when he has raised his voice against the Akali government in Punjab in 1970-71, the Congress during the Emergency and now, against the BJP government at the Centre. He has also been jailed six times for his activism, twice during the Emergency. His most recognised works include Lohe de Hath (1971) and Chauthi Koot (1998). His short story, Main Hun Theek Thaak Haan, became the first Punjabi movie to be screened at Cannes in 2015. He now lives in Canada. Won the 2000 Sahitya Akademi award for Chauthi Koot.
I protested because: “These are dangerous times and I have joined my friends in this fight which will last only when it is constant and continuous.”
Ghulam Nabi Khayal, 75(KASHMIRI/URDU)Once a self-confessed fan of Sheikh Abdullah, the Srinagar-based writer and journalist parted ways with the National Conference founder in 1975 after the latter signed an accord with New Delhi. Starting as an announcer on Radio Kashmir, he rose to become a prominent voice on Kashmiri issues. After stints with Voice of America and India Today, among others, in 2003, he started his weekly newspaper, Voice of Kashmir, of which he is the editor. Has authored 30 books — 17 in Kashmiri, 11 in Urdu, 2 in English. Some of his well-known works include Progressive Literary Movement in Kashmir, Leaves of Chinar and Iqbal and Freedom Movement of Kashmir. He won the Sahitiya Akademi award in 1975 for his Kashmiri book Gaashry Munnaar, a collection of research articles on outstanding poets of the world.
I protested because: “What is happening in India pains me. To return an award is the only way to express my resentment. I want to live in a country that is secular, not a place where freedom of speech and religious identities are facing threats from communal forces.”
MARGHOOB Banihali, 78(Kashmiri/urdu)A prominent academic and poet, Srinagar-based Banihali was HoD of Kashmiri in Kashmir University. Most of Banihali’s writings focus on communal harmony and human values. He has written 45 books in Kashmiri, Urdu, Persian and English. Some of his popular books include Marghoob Theory, which calls for improvement of the Kashmiri script, and Kashir Bal e Apare, which is about the cultural history of Kashmiris living in Jammu. Banihali won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1979 for Partavistaan, a collection of Kashmiri poetry. The book also earned him the state Sahitya Akademi award in 1977.
I protested because: “After witnessing the funeral of Zahid Ahmad, who was set ablaze by communal forces in Udhampur, I returned my trophy and the cash award… Across India, minorities in general and Kashmiris in particular are facing the wrath of communal forces.”
Ambika Dutt, 59 (Hindi)Since he cleared the Rajasthan Tehsildar Service in 1980, he has served in at least half a dozen districts, eventually being promoted to the Rajasthan Administrative Service in 2003. He is now posted as the Registrar of University of Kota.
Dutt has penned seven poetry books in Hindi and in Hadoti dialect of Rajasthani. His chief works include Aawon Main Baarho Maas (Twelve Months in Crisis) and Aanthyoi Nahi Din Hal (Not Sunset Till Now). He says his dealings with people and experiences as a government employee have greatly inspired his work.
Dutt was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award in 2013 for Aanthyoi Nahi Din Hal which stood out as modern poetry written in free-verse.
I protested because: “We shouldn’t pigeonhole writers’ protest as a political or a communal movement as it pollutes the issue… Writers and jagruk sansthan (enlightened institutions) have to act, when required, irrespective of who’s in power. Like Munshi Premchand said, ‘Literature is not something which follows politics, but leads it like a torch’.”
Kashinath Singh, 78(HINDI)The former head of the department of Hindi at BHU has written on a wide range of topics, from Hindu mythology and communal politics to globalisation and women’s issues. Singh draws about Rs 27,000 as pension following his retirement from BHU. Singh campaigned against Narendra Modi in Varanasi before the Lok Sabha elections “for fear his victory would disturb communal harmony”.
He has written five novels, five short stories’ books and three memoirs. His novels include Apana Morcha (about students’ movements), Kashi Ka Assi (the impact of the Babri mosque demolition, Mandal Commission report, globalisation, and life in Varanasi), and Rehan Par Raghu (about social and economic changes in villages after globalisation and migration of youths from villages to cities).
Singh won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2011 for Rehan Par Raghu.
I protested because: “The statements of these Union ministers are insulting for writers…”
Nand Bhardwaj, 67(Hindi)Bhardwaj writes in Rajasthani and Hindi. Having worked with AIR and Doordarshan since 1975, he retired as senior director from Doordarshan Kendra, Jaipur, in August 2008.
His writings include Ret Par Nange Panv, an anthology of senior Hindi poets of Rajasthan, published by the Rajasthan Sahitya Akademi in 1989, and Teen Beesi Paar, an anthology of Rajasthani short stories. His poems include Andhar Pakh, Jheel Per Havi Raat and Hari Doob Ka Sapna.
Bhardwaj won the Sahitya Akademi award for novel Samhi Khulto Marag in 2004; and the Rajasthani Bhasha Sahitya and Sanskriti Akademi award in 1984.
I protested because: “Incidents like murders of Professor M M Kalburgi and author Govind Pansare, the Dadri lynching of a Muslim man and the throwing of ink on Sudheendra Kulkarni are all related and indicate a general trend of hatred and intolerance perpetuated by religious hardliners… The government is complicit because it does nothing to alleviate this atmosphere.”
Rajesh Joshi, 69(Hindi)He turned into a full-time author after his voluntary retirement from SBI in 2001. A Left-leaning poet and writer, social injustice has been a recurring theme in his books. A strong critic of the BJP, he has boycotted all awards and literary functions organised by the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. He alleges that the BJP has reduced everything associated with culture to mere karmakand (ritual).
He also visited the relief camps in Gujarat after the communal riots in 2002.
His works include six anthologies of poems, five plays, and two critiques. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2002 for his anthology of poems Do Panktiyon Ke Beech (Between Two Lines). He has also won state awards, including the Shikhar Samman.
I protested because: “I waited for a long time (after the change of guard at the Centre), thinking things will improve. After the attack on Kalburgi, we requested the Akademi to condemn it. It did not even make a statement. Then there was Dadri. Things are moving towards fascism.”
Mangalaesh Dabral, 67(HINDI)A significant poet of contemporary Hindi literature, Dabral has mostly worked as a journalist with various Hindi publications. At present, he is an editorial advisor with Hindi journal Shukravar. He has been associated with several Left organisations for writers and has never received any favour or post from any government.
Dabral was once invited by the Sahitya Akademi to participate in World Hindi Conference in Surinam, but he refused.
He has several collections of poems, and won the Sahitya Akademi in 2010 for Hum Jo Dekhte Hain, besides Pahal Samman and a few other awards.
I protested because: “We clearly see the threat to our democracy, secularism and freedom. There have been attempts to curb free speech earlier also, but such trends have become more pronounced under the present government.”
Ashok Vajpeyi, 75(HINDI)A poet, art critic and retired bureaucrat, Ashok Vajpeyi is credited with building several literary institutions and establishing journals. Bharat Bhavan, for which then PM Indira Gandhi once called Bhopal the culture capital of India, bears his stamp. He is also a former chairperson of the Lalit Kala Akademi.
Vajpeyi has penned over a dozen books of poetry, being among the few to have written on fine arts and classical music in Hindi. His closeness with the late Congress leader Arjun Singh is often cited for him being able to set a cultural agenda during his bureaucratic days. While the Left group in Hindi literature has always attacked him, two prominent Left-leaning Hindi poets, Muktibodh and Shamsher Bahadur Singh, have influenced his writings.
He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1994 for his poetry collection, Kahin Nahi Wahin.
I protested because: “Being a minority is almost a crime today. We have an eloquent PM who addresses lakhs of people, but here innocent people are being murdered… still he is quiet.”
Uday Prakash, 63(HINDI)Fiction writer and poet Uday Prakash is among the most adored but controversial figures of the last two decades in Hindi literature. He has taught at JNU, been an employee of the MP government, and worked with several newspapers before he decided to freelance as a writer.
He has several collections of stories, most of them exploring the anxieties of post-colonial world and offering a scathing critique of post-reform Indian society. He has attacked both the Right and the Left in his writings, taken sharp political stands, and never received any post from the UPA or any other government.
He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2014 for his story collection Ramdas.
I protested because: “Authors neither come with a political party nor a religious sect. They stand with the ordinary citizens and the disadvantaged last man. Now, no one is safe against offenders. Many are asking why we didn’t return this award during Emergency, the 1984 Delhi riots, the 1992 Mumbai riots or the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. But no writer can be directed when he should express his resistance.”
HOMEN BORGOHAIN, 83 (ASSAMESE)Borgohain is a leading Assamese author and journalist, and former president of Asam Sahitya Sabha. He also hosts a weekly talk show on a TV news channel. A few years ago, Borgohain founded an NGO that helps persons suffering from physical and mental illness.
He has written at least 11 novels in Assamese. His first novel Subala (1963) triggered controversy as it narrated the life of a prostitute. His most well-known novel is Pita Putra, which fetched him the Sahitya Akademi award in 1978. He had also written a novel Puwar Purabi Sandhyar Bibhash jointly with his former wife Nirupama Borgohain (who has also announced her decision to return her Sahitya Akademi award) .
I protested because: “From the day a man was killed in Dadri, I felt uneasy… Seeing several writers return their awards, I felt that was the way… My symbolic protest is not only against the killing of a man in Dadri, I also protest against the rising fascist tendency in India and against all the evil forces that have been trying to hit the main ideology of Indian culture.”
NIRUPAMA BORGOHAIN, 83(ASSAMESE)After working as a college teacher, she switched to journalism. She was married to Homen Borgohain, the other Assamese author who has returned the Sahitya Akademi award, before the two parted ways long ago.
She has authored 64 books, including 33 novels, 16 short story collections, nine essay collections and six translation works. Her themes primarily focus on women and their problems.
Borgohain won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1994 for Abhijatri, a biographical novel based on the life of Chandraprabha Saikiani, a firebrand revolutionary and social activist of early 20th century Assam. She had also won the the Saswati Award in 1987 from the Women’s Organisation in Bengaluru and the Basanti Devi Bordoloi Award from the Asam Sahitya Sabha in 1989-90.
I protested because: “I have decided to return the Sahitya Akademi award in protest against Narendra Modi’s silence on the Dadri killing.”
Keki N Daruwalla, 78(English)Daruwalla began his journey as a poet with Under Orion (1970), a collection of poems that drew from his experiences as an IPS official who had spent time in strife-torn regions. Since retirement, he has been a member of the National Commission for Minorities and also served as special assistant to the PM under the UPA government.
Settled in Delhi, Daruwalla has 10 poetry volumes and five short stories to his name. His poems have been translated into Swedish, Spanish, Magyar, Macedonian and Russian. Daruwalla also has five volumes of short stories to his credit, including Islands (2014). A recipient of the Padma Shri (2014), Daruwalla was awarded the Sahitya Akademi in 1984 for his poetry collection The Keeper of the Dead.
I protested because: “I admit this award I got is prestigious and I must have gained in reputation from it. But there are times when one must stand up to be counted. The rising tide of intolerance being what it is, I am constrained to return the award.”
K Katyayani Vidhmahe, 59(TELUGU)Born in Mailavaram village of Addakani in Prakasam District, Andhra Pradesh, Vidhmahe did an MA in Telugu from Kakatiya University in Warangal. A professor of Telugu at the same university, earning over Rs 1 lakh a month, she has been writing for over two decades.
A critique of Telugu literature, she has authored 27 books, including Aadhunika Telugu Sahityam Sthrevada and Kanyaasulkam-Samajika Sambandhaalu, besides writing 275 research papers on Telugu literature. She is known in literary circles by her pen name Katyayani ‘Vidmahe’.
She won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2013 for Sathiyaakaasamlo Sagam, a compilation of essays on gender inequality.
I protested because: “The atmosphere in the country is not good for writers and freedom of expression. I am against the growing intolerance, silencing of Tamil writer Perumal Murugan and Kalburgi’s murder.”
Rahamat Tarikere, 56(KANNADA)A teacher for the last 24 years at Hampi Kannada University in Karnataka’s Bellary district, Tarikere is a professor, critic and researcher of Kannada literature. Intensely aware of his position as a Muslim intellectual, he has criticised Muslim fundamentalism, including the killing of bloggers in Banglasesh. Tarikere views Muslim and Hindu fundamentalism as two sides of the same coin. His writings dwell on Sufism, cult studies, culture and politics. His 2008 book Dharma Parikshe examined communalism and secularism in the age of globalisation. He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2010 for Kattiyanchina Daari, a collection of essays on literature, religion, politics and culture. He won the state Sahitya Akademi award in 1992, 1998 and 2000.
I protested because: “When Dabholkar was murdered, we raised protests. When Pansare was killed, it was a shock. When Kalburgi was killed, we understood it was a series of systematic killings of writers. Kalburgi was my mentor, so it affected me personally. Dadri signalled the break point. We are not protesting against any one person or party.”
M Bhoopal Reddy, 56(TELUGU)Reddy was born into a poor agricultural family that owned two acres of land. His father was a constable in the Excise Department. An MA in Telugu and a PhD on the writings of Potlapalli from Osmania University in Hyderbad, Reddy has authored 19 books over a two-decade writing career, alongside acting in movies and plays. He earns over Rs 1 lakh a month.
He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 2011 for Uggu Paalu, a compilation of 90 short stories for children. Other well-known works include Kotta Bag, Komaram Bheem, Gudugudu Gunchem and Vastava Potava. Recently, he voiced his dismay over the recent alleged encounter killings in Telangana.
I protested because: “The atmosphere in the country is disturbing because of which M M Kalburgi was killed.”