Giving up awards will not help prevent another Dadri lynching. Helping change mindsets through power of pen could!

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See the irony of life… academicians and authors accepting the award from the congress-led Indian Government, which is alleged to have triggered the Sikh genocide, are, one by one, returning the honour to the Sahitya Akademi, bestowed upon them years ago.

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Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece, Nayantara Sahgal, who received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1986 for her English novel, ‘Rich like us (1985)’, returned the award after relishing, and taking privileges because of it, for twenty nine years.

Others include Uday Prakash, Chandrasekhar Patil, Ashok Vajpayee, Shashi Deshpande, Sarah Joseph, K Satchidanandan are some of the writers who have shown their displeasure!

They are protesting against the Government, the legends believe they are keeping quiet on sensitive issues. Whether it is true or not should not have been the issue, at least not such a dramatic one. Will giving it up make any difference to the prevailing situation? It does show that the men of letter feel disillusioned by certain inadequacies in the system, that they resent inaction on the Government’s part. They do genuinely feel obligated to do their bit, but a better, more constructive route could have been taken… although who am I to comment on the judgment of so many literary giants…

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This intensifying surrendering of awards has reached a telling number: 24 by last count, and climbing. They are a diverse lot – old, young, men, and women. These titans have written in many languages, from Hindi to Urdu, Kannada, Konkani, Punjabi, Gujarati and English, and are from all around the country.

It’s a wave that should stop now; the literary breed ought to be more objective. They should get together and brainstorm on how real change can come. As Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma deviously pointed out, “the Sahitya Akademi award has nothing to do with the government. It’s an award given by writers to writers. It is their personal choice to return it… we accept it.”

Although said insensitively, the message was clear…. which is why the writers should change track.

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Otherwise, their collective decision to drop awards could be construed as pseudo-secular…there was no returning of the award when the Kashmiri Pundits were thrown out of their own State. When the Muzzafarnagar riots took place, they were not out there. There are many incidents more deplorable that the killing of Akhlaq where they could have staged similar protest….

India needs to be what it embodies. The freedom of its religion is the foundation of this country. However, giving up awards is starting to appear as a stunt. For helping millions of families, like that of Akhlaq’s and the man himself, change mindsets. Why give up awards that you all so rightfully deserve?

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