I do not recognise India of the present time, says writer Anita Desai

London (PTI): Noted novelist Anita Desai has said she will return her Sahitya Award if the Akademi does not make it clear that it is not a government body but an independent one that exists to defend free speech and the right to question and dissent.

Anita Desai, image courtesy:Twitter

Her comments came after at least 34 writers, over the past weeks, handed over their Sahitya Akademi awards in the aftermath of the killing of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and Dadri lynching incident, among other issues.

“If it is not able to declare and pursue such a policy, I will be obliged, in solidarity with my fellow writers, to renounce my membership of the Akademi and the award it gave me when I was a young writer in more hopeful times,” Desai said in a statement distributed by PEN International here.

The 78-year-old author who received a Sahitya Award in 1978 for her novel “Fire on the Mountain” said she was born in an India that enshrined democracy, pluralism and the freedom of speech in its constitution.

“I do not recognise India of the present time where, under the banner of ‘Hindutva,’ intimidation and bigotry seek to silence writers, scholars and all who believe in secular and rational thought,” she said.

The author said in an atmosphere where there is no security or support for those who voice dissent, criticism or rational thought, there can be no intellectual or artistic work of any worth.

“It saddens me that the august body of the Sahitya Akademi has not been able to support and protect writers from the intimidation and violence, verbal and physical, watched publishers withdraw books, universities delete texts from syllabi, distort and manipulate history, and silently witnessed institutions like the National Book Trust, the Nehru Museum and Library, and the University of Nalanda replace distinguished scholars,” Desai said.

“At this crucial moment I appeal to the Sahitya Akademi to make clear that it does not represent any government or its policies, but is an independent body that exists to defend free speech and the right to question and dissent, in short what the constitution of the country promised us,” she said.

Desai, who was shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize was in 2007, was elected as a Sahitya Akademi Fellow, one of the highest honour conferred by the literary body on a writer.

Recently, writers from 150 countries expressed solidarity with Indian authors and artistes who returned their prestigious awards in protest against “rising intolerance” in the country and have asked the BJP government to provide better protection and safeguard free speech.

The president of 1921 founded body PEN International, had earlier in a letter to the President, the Prime Minister and the Sahitya Akedemi, urged them to take “immediate steps” to protect the rights of everyone, including writers and artists.

Desai is among many writers including noted writers Nayantar Seghal, Ashok Vajpeyi, Shashi Deshpande and Ganesh Devy who have spoken out against the rising intolerance in the country.

7 Comments

  1. Now under the BJP Government, India has been shifted backward into some grey area, hundred years behind. All the advancement and positive recognition accomplished during the last few years since independence has been already burned; thus a smoke screen has appeared in India in front of the whole world.

  2. Oh really? May be, she should blame herself and other crony-secular folks for what’s happening not only in India but also in Europe!! Looks like she is currently based in London. She should know a thing or two about UKIP, PEGIDA and other right-wing parties in her own town!! For decades, these crony-secular groups have been sidelining majority-hindus in India and majority-Christians in Europe. What a silly, laughable selective outrage!!!

  3. “Now under the BJP Government, India has been shifted backward into some grey area, hundred years behind” – Mr. Mathew – How come Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India recently was more than that of moneys invested in China for the first time ever? Mr. Modi’s foreign ‘make in India’ investment campaigns seem to be working! The numbers speak for themselves – and these are undeniable facts! You need to know the facts first.

    • B. Dinesh ASKS,”How come Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India recently was more than that of moneys invested in China for the first time ever?”

      ANS: SINCE 2013 – 2014 THE CHINESE ECONOMY IS BUCKLING AND GOT DEVALUED. INDIA DID NOT BUCKLE DUE TO THE PRUDENT JOB DONE BY MANMOHAN SINGH GOVERNMENT.

      LATER, CRUDE OIL WHICH CONSTITUTE 1/3RD OF TOTAL IMPORTS BY INDIA HAS HALVED IN PRICE, YET UNDER THE MODI GOVERNMENT INDIAN RUPEE IS NOT RECOVERING AND INSTEAD RUPEE IS AT ITS LOWEST!

      EXPLAIN THIS FACT BEFORE CLAIMING LAURELS. UNDERSTAND THAT YOU HAVE COMPARED THE INVESTMENTS ON A REDUCED INVESTMENT IN CHINA AND NOT ON ANY REAL TERM INCREASE OF FOREIGN INVESTMENTS IN INDIA.

      COMPARING YOURSELF WITH A MAN FALLEN SICK, TO CLAIM THAT YOU HAVE BECOME Hercules IS LAUGHABLE.

      • LATER, CRUDE OIL WHICH CONSTITUTE 1/3RD OF TOTAL IMPORTS BY INDIA HAS HALVED IN PRICE, YET UNDER THE MODI GOVERNMENT INDIAN RUPEE IS NOT RECOVERING AND INSTEAD RUPEE IS AT ITS LOWEST! – Mr. BN Pai to Dinesha

        Mr. Pai, didn’t our beloved Amit ‘Shaw’ go to the extent of saying that the Modi govt BROUGHT down the price of Brent, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Dubai crude?

        Didn’t our Pradhana Sevaka say that very soon he would ENSURE that 1 IRS = 1 USD?

        And then, I won’t EVEN delve into how malnutrition has worsened under that ‘Mann ki Bath’ fellow.

        • Praveen – “And then, I won’t EVEN delve into how malnutrition has worsened under that ‘Mann ki Bath’ fellow.”

          HE FEEDS THE STARVING MILLIONS BY HIS”MAN KI BAATH”

          NO FOOD GRAIN OR BHAATH OR ACHCHE DIN BY REAL PROGRESS IS NEEDED, FOR HE FEEDS BY ROSY, CRAZY “MAN KI BAATH”!

  4. What do you imply ? Do we need to ignore the sociology of intolerance till the milk is spilled?

    If history is of any lesson – Syria , Iraq , Rwanda , Germany( does not matter how educated or prosperous – we all are deep down have basic instincts).

    One can have all the investment- only time will tell at what cost?

    Once we were poor then we had our middle class now we have elite class – does our wealth mean that we become more democratic or self centered and embrace ideology that surely leads to our own trojan horse of destruction in the near future?

    If all the races of human beings are homo sapiens, then the lessons taught by history and other civilizations and races should be true to us .

Leave a Reply