Cover Story : Grossly illogical Protest
—Dr Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, Chairman, Sahitya Akademi
Sahitya Akademi president Dr Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari terms the return of awards by some writers as an illogical step. But he says if somebody has to return the award he/she will have to return it along with the amount they had received with the Award. He has called a meeting of the Executive Board to discuss this issue thoroughly on October 23. Talking to Organiser Senior Correspondent Pramod Kumar he admits that there is no atmosphere of intolerance or any attack on Freedom of Expression as is being cited by some writers. Excerpts:
- What have you to say on the return of the awards by some writers during the last a few weeks?
I have called the meeting of Executive Board to discuss this matter on October 23. It is an illogical step on the part of these writers. There is no cause of returning the Akademi awards. It is a panel of writers, not an individual, who basically award the work of any writer on the basis of its quality. Therefore, there is no logic of returning such award. Even then if any writer wants to express his/her feelings on any issue, he/she should talk to the Akademi. But we have received the information about returning the awards through the media only.
- Has the Akademi formally received the award from any writer?
Though I am out of station, I am in constant touch with my office we have received letters from eight writers till October 13.
- Have they returned only the citation only or the amount also which they had received with that?
I cannot tell you anything about it at the moment. But I feel if they have to return the award, they will have to return complete award. The Board will discuss it in the meeting. Just issuing statements is not sufficient. The Executive Board will discuss the modalities for it, as it is for the first time that the Akademi has confronted with such a situation. This is also a fact that the incidents which these writers are citing as cause of returning the awards have not taken place for the first time. Many such incidents, rather more heinous, have taken place in the past. But the anguish or opposition is being expressed for the first time.
- Sahitya Akademi is an autonomous body and it has no direct interference of the government. Then why is it being targeted for the incidents with whom it has no connection?
This is what I say. The Akademi has no connection with those incidents. If they oppose the government on any issues, what has the Sahitya Akademi got to do with it? This is no way to protest.
- Then why they are targeting the Akademi?
Basically, I am not in a position to say anything at this moment. I am just waiting for the October 23 meeting. I know everything. I also know much about many people. But while holding such a sensitive post, I have to maintain some decorum. If I reveal the facts, the situation may go out of control. I want to keep the atmosphere balanced. It is in the interests of everyone. But I again reiterate that the step taken by these people is illogical.
- After this row, there are voices which say that some wrong people have been selected for the award?
People have been honoured at different times. Smt Nayantara Sahgal was honoured in the year 1986. I am in the Akademi only from the last two and a half years. I have not seen all the files. Therefore, I cannot say much about it now. I will come with a detailed statement after discussing the matter in the Board on October 23.
- Have you tried to speak to any writer on this issue?
Why should I speak to anybody? They also did not speak to me before taking this step. They could have apprised us of their anger.
- Do you accept the government is being dragged into it unnecessarily?
I say Sahitya Akademi is being dragged in this issue without any reason. If they have any grievance against the government they have many other means to express their opposition.
- They say there is atmosphere of intolerance in the country. Do you also see it?
Intolerance has constantly been rising in the society. They should watch it and see why it has been increasing. There have been incidents in the past also when many innocent people were killed. But anger against the Akademi has come out for the first time.
- Some also say there is attack on Freedom of Expression. Can there be any bigger attack on Freedom of Expression then during the Emergency. What do you feel?
Yes. Neither before, nor after. Today also there is no any such thing.