NEW DELHI: Hindi poet and literary critic Ashok Vajpeyi has decided to return the Sahitya Akademi award as a mark of protest against the growing assault on freedom and the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the subject — the third recipient to do so.
"Our Prime Minister, who is so loquacious on all issues, is silent on a series of ghastly events where writers and rationalists are being killed for their views and a common man has been lynched for his alleged eating habits. Narendra Modi needs to assure the reflective and creative community of this country that the Constitution must be respected by all, including his party members and party sympathisers," Vajpeyi, the 74 year-old former Lalit Kala Akademi chairman, told TOI over phone on Wednesday.
After Hindi litterateur Uday Prakash and English writer Nayantara Sahgal, Vajpeyi is the third recipient of the Sahitya Akademi award to return it. He had received it for his poetry collection, Kahin Nahin Wahin, in 1994.
"For the past year-and-a-half, I have been writing about the rise of violence, intolerance and bigotry in our society in my Jansatta column, Kabhi Kabhaar (Occasionally). We have been witnessing a culture of exclusions and bans. I strongly feel those involved are against the spirit of Indian tradition and seeking to create a parochial and prejudiced view of the past," Vajpeyi said.
"Today, we are witnessing an assault on the right to freedom, expression and life. We have a culture minister who says that APJ Abdul Kalam was a nationalist 'despite being a Muslim'. Another Union minister says during a world Hindi conference in Bhopal that writers are not invited because they 'come, drink, read papers and go away'," he said.
In recent months, India has witnessed daylight murders of Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi winner, M M Kalburgi, and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
Vajpeyi said that the police investigation in these cases is tardy. "The authorities seem to have no will to catch the culprits. In this backdrop, a Muslim has been killed over rumours of beef-eating in Dadri," he said.
The poet also expressed surprised that the Sahitya Akademi, an autonomous body, has neither condemned the killings nor brought any pressure on the government by issuing a statement.