Nehru’s niece to return Sahitya Akademi Award

New Delhi: Eminent author and Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece Nayantara Sahgal has decided to return the Sahitya Akademi Award in protest against the rising attacks on people who question the “ugly and dangerous distortion” of Hinduism.

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Sahgal also questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence over such “reign of terror”. “There is a rising tide of the environment of hatred and killing of those people speaking against Hindutva ideology. I cannot remain silent anymore,” she told Deccan Herald over phone from Dehradun.

Sahgal, author of several novels, won the award in 1986 for her work “Rich Like Us.” She is the daughter of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Nehru’s sister.

In a statement titled “The Unmaking of India”, she referred to the recent killing of distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner M M Kalburgi, as well as murder of two other rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, saying India’s “culture of diversity and debate” was now under “vicious assault” despite right to dissent being an integral part of the Constitution.

“Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva — whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle — are being marginalised, persecuted or murdered,” she said.

Sahgal also referred to the recent killing of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri, noting that he was dragged out of his home in Bisara village and “brutally lynched on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home.” “In all these cases, justice drags its feet.

The prime minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology,” she said.

“In memory of Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award,” said Sahgal.

She also criticised the Akademi for its silence on the issue. “It is a matter of sorrow that the Sahitya Akademi remains silent. The Akademis’ were set up as guardians of the creative imagination, and promoters of art and literature,” she said.

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