Intro : Sahitya Academi has always chronicled events through its writings for the sake of posterity. So the real reason for this award wapsi is not very convincing to the readers and those in the political circles.
The duplicities of Sahitya Academi winners is getting exposed by the day as most of the reasons given by them are not holding any truth and there are contradictions in their words and deeds. The main point that contradicts these writers’ actions who are supposed to be the best in their field is that none of them is ready to chronicle the change in the social and political environment that is taking place in the country presently.
It is a wonder that these pen worthy men and women who are unabashedly blaming the present day regime for spreading communal disharmony are not documenting it and bringing it forth to their largely followed readers. If indeed some of them claim that they had written against emergency, or riots that took place in Congress regime then it is left to wonder why the change in today’s social environment cannot be worth chronicled by them. After all there is no emergency like situation today (no ban on media , writers etc) nor have there any riots taken place ever since Modi regime has kicked in then why are they not writing and instead resorting to award wapsi? Or is it that they are disappointed that much of what they expected (such as political and social upheaval) has not really taken place thereby not giving them enough material to write. With these thoughts one needs to question the acts of these writers and look into what really goes on in cultural institutions more deeply :
- One of the most touted reasons stated for award wapsi is the murder of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi indicating that it is an end to free speech. The one thing common with all these killings is that they were questioning many practices and rituals in Hinduism and were using their stature to create a doubt in religious practices that Hindus deeply believe in. This to an extent was creating a vitiating atmosphere in an otherwise strong believing Hindu society.
- The fact is that two murders took place in Congress ruled states while one has taken place in BJP state so why are State governments not being questioned? How can centre be held accountable for killing of writers who hold a rational view. Did the writer ask for protection when he sounded these views and has the real motive of the murder been established in all three cases. Most of the motives stated in the media are ‘just doubts’ and not really a conclusive finding of the police.
- Writers who have received these awards are returning and getting their fame out of the same. One needs to see it’s not about just the award put about the fame, respect and above all goodwill in the society they earned. Can these be returned? The world over writers are writing and documenting changing political events against regimes that they think are oppressive or dictatorial. Take the case of China, Russia or Iran. In the words of Munshi Premchand ‘Literature is not something which follows politics, but leads it like a torch’. Where are these writers now?
- A look at the academi shows that while it claims to be an autonomous institution some of its haloed members had written to the previous UPA Government that the Chairperson of the academi should be chosen by the government. They wrote this thinking that a cosy coterie of chosen few in collusion with the government will keep rotating dolling out privileges to one another and chosen writers. What begs to be questioned is how the Academi is then autonomous as is claimed by some writers. This clearly shows that the academi wants government patronage and with it will come interference. So has the academi really been autonomous or has it been servile to Ministry of Culture’s diktats? Some of its writers who have given awards to themselves are bureaucrats. So where is the free thinking and speech?
- Individual awardees and their affiliations and activities in the recent past show that some had campaigned vociferously against Modi in the Lok Sabha elections making them politically inclined, one is a AAP member, while most of them are members of CPI and CPM, and some directly were patronised by the Congress and are beneficiaries of its largesse. So the moot point is, are these pure litterateurs or agenda driven political litterateurs?
- Many writers have complained that there are a privileged few writers who hawk the academi and its working alluding to a Literary Mafia. But most of the writers have claimed that there is transparency in the selection of literature and that there is a ‘subjective criteria’ while choosing an award winning book. However in reality the jury is only known to a few, there is utmost secrecy in choosing books for awards and more often than not the awards are pre-decided to favour one or the other. What needs to be seen is how is the jury is composed, and which books are selected and why is there no objective criteria in giving a book an award?
- Selection of the books apart, how are these marketed and why publishers favour them over others is also a nexus that needs to be looked into. The much observed practice of academi winning writers is to invite Culture Minister for book launching giving a weight of state approval to the book. This gives free publicity and hence more sale and stocking in public libraries. Many of these libraries are state owned located in small towns and cities thereby filling these institutions with politically agenda driven books making it look that there is demand for this literature and influencing thoughts of the readers with a particular agenda. Public libraries and its workings need to be scrutinised and how seen, and whose books are ordered and the quantities that are received. Time has come to see what really is going on in public discourse and the factors that are influencing Bharateeya society through literature.
These facts definitely question the way in which award wapsi is taking place. Whether the revolt is genuine or manufactured is for all to see. Nayantara Sehgal spearheaded the campaign but most of the writers have not specified why they are returning the award. This shows that they are showing solidarity only to be counted and that they have no genuine reason to get into this act. It is worth mentioning here that when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Chairperson of the Academi, had influenced Russian President Nikita Krushchev not to jail Boris Pasternak for his book Dr Zhivago that was nominated for Noble Prize. Pasternak had documented the communist regime and its atrocities against the people and despite Russia not being very keen on pardoning him, Nehru took it on himself to make sure that the real story of Dr Zhivago is known to the world. The point here is that the academy has always chronicled events through its writings for the sake of posterity. So the real reason for this award wapsi is not very convincing to the readers and those in the political circles. Some of this is duplicitous behaviour coming to the fore and is proving how far and deep the writers’ academy is entrenched by that ideology that there is no genuine freedom in the writings of these academy winners, these are only political agenda driven writings.
Bhagyashree Pande (The writer is Mumbai based