A growing number of novelists, essayists and playwrights — 41 so far — have returned the prestigious awards they received from India’s literary academy “to protest what they call a growing climate of intolerance under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government,” the AP reports.
“Dozens of writers say every day brings more evidence of intolerance and bigotry going mainstream — a man lynched allegedly for eating beef, an atheist critic of Hindu idol worship gunned down — all met by a deafening silence from the government,” the story reports.
The AP adds: “The writers are also angry that India’s Sahitya Akademi, or National Academy of Letters, has said little about the murder of the well-known rationalist Malleshappa Kalburgi, an award-winning Kannada-language writer, gunned down in August for his writings against superstition and false beliefs.”
The writers are also alarmed about what they see as an increase in curbs on free speech.
India’s government responded by challenging the writers’ protest as politically motivated, with culture minister Mahesh Sharma telling reporters: “If they say they are unable to write, let them stop writing.”
One of the writers, playwright and theater actress Maya Krishna Rao, who reportedly returned her award to the academy this week, is quoted in the story saying: “It’s become a question of an individual’s right to speak, to think, to write, to eat, to dress, to debate.”