Punjabi writers lead in ‘award wapsi’ protests against intolerance

Punjabi writers have returned the highest number of awards and honors under the ‘award wapsi’ protests against intolerance, numbers from the ministry of culture revealed.

The second highest number of Sahitya Akademi (Literary Council) awards were returned by Hindi writers, with six of them choosing to show their protest this way.

In all, a total of 40 writers, poets and artists have returned their Sahitya Akademi or Lali Kala Akademi awards over the last three months.

The protests started after Kannada writer M M Kalburgi was gunned down, allegedly by those who opposed his efforts against superstition.

Another Kannada writer, KS Bhagawan — who has also been vocal against superstitions — also got death threats within days of Kalburgi’s murder. In Maharashtra, a rationalist and anti-superstition activist Govind Pansare was also gunned down on 20 February, 2015.

Another Kannada writer, UR Ananthamurthy — who died from medical complications in August last year — had also come under criticism from fringe elements for his political statements.

The ministry of culture said the 40 writers and artists who have returned their awards have quoted various reasons including “mishappenings against writers” in recent months.

According to the list of ‘returnees’, no writer from Tamil Nadu has yet returned his or her award.

Among those who have returned their awards are Ashok Vajpeeyi and Rajesh Joshi from Hindi, Nayantara Sahgal and Keki Daruwalla from English, Anil Joshi from Gujarati, Gurbachan Bhullar, Surjit Patar and Ajmer Singh Aulakh from Punjabi, Nand Bhardwaj from Rajasthani, Nirupama Borgohain from Assamese and Katyayani Vidmahe from Telugu.

32 of the 40 who have returned their awards were recognized for original works, three for translations and the remaining under various other categories.