Earlier this month, Kanda poet, Professor Chandrasekhar Patil and Hindi writer Uday Prakash decided to return their literary awards to protest against the killing well known Kanda writer, Professor M. M. Kalburgi, who was gunned down by an identified persons in Dharwad last month. Patil returned the Pampa Prasashti—the highest literary award in Kartaka—along with the cheque of Rs 3 lakh, plaque and shawl the State government. “We have watched many lives being snuffed out silently, Marathi voices like Govind Pansare, rendra Dabholkar and another death in Gulbarga of another bold Kanda writer, Lingan Satyampet. The investigations in each of these cases don’t seem to be going anywhere.” Patil said Kalburgi’s work came under fire “not just from fellow Lingayats, but also from the RSS, Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sene... We anticipated trouble, but he paid the ultimate price with his life, for his bold and fearless voice.” Meanwhile, Uday Prakash, who received the Sahitya Akademi Award for 2010-11, also decided to return his award. In a letter to the Sahitya Akademi, Prakash cited “anguish, despair and angst” to add to the growing insecurity among writers. Speaking to The Indian Express, Prakash said, “Someone like Kalburgi, who, the Akademi had termed as ‘outstanding’ gets shot in cold blood. Yet the Akademi does not... condole, issue a statement or even a message of regret to the family. In case of railway accidents, for instance, even callous governments express sorrow and make a perfunctory visit. But there has been no word, nothing, just silence.” Prakash also decided to return the cheque for Rs 1 lakh, the memento and the shawl. The actions of the writer and the poet were followed by 88-year-old yantara Sehgal, niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, also returning her Sahitya Akademi Award to lodge a protest against the Akademi’s silence over repeated attacks on writers and ratiolists who were raising their voices of dissent. By now, 12 more writers have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards in protest against the “commul” atmosphere following the killing of ratiolist M.M. Kalburgi. Booker prize-winning author Salman Rushdie also joined the spiralling protests by writers and poets against the spread of “commul poison” and “rising intolerance” in the country on Monday. Apart from writers and poets, Delhi-based theatre artiste Maya Krish Rao also returned her Sangeet tak Akademi Award to protest against the recent Dadri lynching and the “overall rising intolerance” in the country. The reference, of course, was to the mob lynching of a family in Bisara village near Dadri about 50 km from New Delhi on the spread of a rumour that it had killed a cow and eaten its meat on September 28. The armed mob that attacked the family that night killed 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi and seriously injured his 22-year-old son Danish.
There were other similar acts of intolerance as well. On Monday, Shiv Se activists blackened the face of ORF chief Sudheendra Kulkarni because of the refusal to cancel the book launch function of former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. However, Kulkarni was undeterred by the violent protest and went ahead with the programme, which was held amid tight security following threats of disruption by Shiv Se activists. The defiant Kulkarni was able to launch Kasri’s book Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy that evening.
The kind of acts that have lately manifested themselves reflect the kind of intolerance that has never been the true face of India. Over the centuries, the country has been known all over the world for the tolerance and the accommodating spirit of its people. True, this has led to India being conquered time and again by alien invaders largely because of the people’s acceptance even of the invaders. It is perhaps this spirit of tolerance and accommodation that has prevented us from fighting against invaders, and shaped India’s history. However, in the end our freedom struggle not only forged a tion, but ebled us to be rid of our alien rulers. The partition of the country 1947 was unfortute, but it was a price that had to be paid for our independence. The demographic profile of the country at present has a large Hindu majority comprising about 80 per cent, and a Muslim population of around 18 per cent. India also has the second largest Muslim population in the world. What is really important for secular democratic republic like India is that there has to be tolerance and understanding between religious and ethnic groups for our accepted principles of secularism and democracy to be sustained.
There are a few facts of life that are a major source of worry to all Indians. One of them is that the only exchange of population that took place between Pakistan and India was immediately after Partition. The other significant fact is that after 1947 migration has largely been a one-way process: from Pakistan to India rather than from India to Pakistan. The migration from India to Pakistan took place during the years immediately following Partition. But thereafter, migration has been from Pakistan and Bangladesh to India. This is borne out by the fact that the Hindu population in both Pakistan and present Bangladesh has been drastically reduced. The other significant fact is that the Muslim population of India has been increasing at a higher rate than the Hindu population, both due to large-scale illegal immigration from Bangladesh and because Muslims in India are the only section of the population permitted to be polygamous in a so-called secular country despite the Supreme Court repeatedly asking our rulers what happened to the uniform civil code enshrined in the Directive Principles of our Constitution. Today we are sandwiched between two theocratic states that have no responsibility for having to be tolerant of different faiths and ethnic groups. But we in India have the responsibility of being tolerant and of remaining secular. This difference in responsibilities marks the difference in attitudes that are imperative.