NEW DELHI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM/PANAJI: In a major development that has averted a possible return of the 2015 awardwapsi protest, the Sahitya Akademi has vociferously expressed solidarity with writers after at least 26 heavyweight authors urged India’s National Academy of Letters to condemn repeated ongoing threats to Goa’s award-winning writer Damodar Mauzo and Malayalam novelist S. Hareesh.
“I must make it clear that the Akademi condemns all attacks against writers and I am saddened by the news of Mauzo and Hareesh. I condemn these threats in strongest of words,” Sahitya Akademi President Chandrashekhar Kambar told IANS over the telephone from Bangalore.
The 81-year-old said that he will be writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and draw his attention to the “pressures and attacks” writers like Hareesh are facing. I am also trying to speak to the concerned minister (Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma) but he is not available,” he said.
“The Akademi is meant to uphold free speech and I will not hesitate. I will talk,” Kambar asserted.
On being reminded that the same body took as many as 54 days to publicly condemn the killings of rational thinkers and writers M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar that had triggered massive protests by writers bringing the Akademi to a standstill in 2015, Kambar said that the past should be left behind as the Akademi was on the cusp of revival.
“Forget the past, we are doing everything in our capacity and we have taken a stand already, that we condemn these attacks against S. Hareesh and Damodar Mauzo,” he said.
In an official statement released Thursday afternoon, the Akademi reiterated that it “condemns all attacks on writers, thinkers and poets, not only in India but all over the world”.
It said that the Akademi received “the news of threat” to writers with “great pain”.
“Sahitya Akademi strongly condemns these attacks and stand behind the writers’ community of India,” read the one-paragraph press statement from the Sahitya Akademi, signed by Kambar.
A collegium of heavyweight and multiple award-winning writers such as Nayantara Sahgal, Keki Daruwalla, K. Satchidanandan, Ritu Menon, Jerry Pinto and Meena Alexander, among several others, had written to the Akademi under the banner of Indian Writers’ Forum, urging it to condemn such instances.
The writers’ forum pointed out that the Akademi had failed to take a “bold, public stand” in 2015.
“We hope this would not happen in your dispensation and that this big literary institution will take a brave stand now,” the letter read.
Reacting to Akademi’s statement, writer and poet Keki Daruwalla, who had returned his Sahitya Akademi award in 2015 and was among the writers who urged the Akademi to condemn threats on Wednesday, said that it was “excellent news”.“I am happy that the same scenario (like 2015) has not been repeated. We have done our part and I compliment the Akademi for having spoken out, and particularly Mr. Kambar, for taking immediate cognizance of the matter, instead of sitting silently like the Akademi did in 2015,” Daruwalla told IANS.
In the meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Thursday said that the culture of banning books impacts the free flow of ideas and should not be taken recourse to unless they are hit by Section 292 of the IPC that prohibits obscenity.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud reserved its order on a plea seeking to omit certain excerpts from “Meesha” by Hareesh.
“You are giving undue importance to this kind of stuff. In the age of the Internet, you are making this an issue. It is best forgotten,” said Justice Chandrachud.
But even as top writers express their solidarity, the vitriol against Malayalam novelist S. Hareesh and his publisher DC Books have continued as they received numerous threats and messages of intimidation from some right-wing outfits. The Kerala state government has assured the publisher of their support.
An officer of the Cantonment Police station in Thiruvananthapuram said a case has been registered on Thursday against four activists of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party) who took part in a protest before the DC Books office on Wednesday.
“The case has been registered against four people who have been identified. They burned the book, that has now become controversial. However, today also there was a protest, but no case has been registered,” said the police officer who did not wish to be identified.
Mauzo has been provided police security following threats to his life in view of revelations made by those arrested in the murder case of activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru.
The award-winning Konkani writer and progressive thinker Mauzo had earlier confirmed to IANS that round-the-clock security was provided to him after he was informed by a central intelligence agency about the threat to his life. (IANS)