Monday, October 12, 2015

Shashi Deshpande Quits Akademi’s General Council Protesting its Silence Over Kalburgi Murder // Keki N Daruwalla: ‘The Akademi Has Not Even Condoled The Murder of Kalburgi’

Shashi Deshpande's Letter Protesting Silence Over Kalburgi Murder

Dr Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari,
President, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi
Cc: Professor Chandrashekhar Kambar, Vice-President Sahitya Akademi, Dr K. Sreenivasarao, Secretary Sahitya Akademi

Dear Sir,
When I heard in November 2012 from the Sahitya Akademi that I had been nominated to the General Council of the Akademi in the individual category of writers, I felt honoured. I have always respected the Sahitya Akademi’s role as the single institution in India that brings together all the Indian languages under one umbrella, at the same time giving each language its rightful place and dignity.

Today, I am deeply distressed by the silence of the Akademi on the murder of Professor M. M. Kalburgi. Professor Kalburgi was a noted scholar, and a good and honest human being; he was also a Sahitya Akademi awardee and a member of its General Council until recently.

If the Akademi, the premier literary organisation in the country, cannot stand up against such an act of violence against a writer, if the Akademi remains silent about this attack on one of its own, what hope do we have of fighting the growing intolerance in our country? A few tame condolence meetings here and there for a member of our community cannot serve the purpose.

Sadly, it has become increasingly important to reaffirm that difference of opinion cannot be ended with a bullet; that discussion and debate are the only way a civilised society resolves issues. It has also become clear that writers, who are supposed to be the conscience-keepers of society, are no longer considered intellectual leaders; their voices no longer matter. Perhaps this is the right time for writers to reclaim their voices. But we need a community of voices, and this is where the Akademi could serve its purpose and play an important role. It could initiate and provide space for discussion and debate in public life. It could stand up for the rights of writers to speak and write without fear; this is a truth all political parties in a democracy are supposed to believe in. Silence is a form of abetment, and the Sahitya Akademi, which should speak for the large community of Indian writers, must stand up and protest the murder of Professor Kalburgi and all such acts of violent intolerance.

In view of the Akademi’s failure to stand up for its community of writers and scholars, I am, out of a sense of strong disappointment, offering my resignation from the General Council of the Sahitya Akademi. I do this with regret, and with the hope that the Akademi will go beyond organising programmes, and giving prizes, to being involved with crucial issues that affect Indian writers’ freedom to speak and write.

Shashi Deshpande
October 9, 2015
Text of Shashi Deshpande’s letter courtesy

The poet Keki N Daruwalla has written a strong letter to the president of the Sahitya Akademi expressing his shock that he has remained silent about the murder of writers, including that of M M Kalburgi, who was a member of the institution. Here is the full text:

Dear Dr. Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari,
What I am going to say may not be very pleasant. I have, since my return to the country in mid September, been quite perturbed at the inexplicable silence of the Akademi of which you are President, in regard to crimes against authors.

The letters from well known writers and their dismay at the Akademi’s apathy to murder of writers is indeed something extremely alarming. It is astonishing that you are not sensitive to this issue. Writers returning their awards, or resigning from positions in the Akademi, is something which has never been witnessed in the long history of the Akademi.

Late Prof. M.M. Kalburgi was a Sahitya Akademi award winner. He was murdered first thing in the morning on August 30. According to all the reports in papers that I have read, this was a murder of ideas that he held. Over a month has passed and the Akademi has not even held a Shok Sabha, condolence meeting in his honour. What does it say of the Akademi as an institution and of office bearers of this institution as upholders of our literary and cultural values?

The Akademi must hold a meeting and condole with the family. What is even more important, writers should feel free to express their anger and views at this dastardly crime. It is not just the crime that is condemnable, but also the distorted and warped thought process behind the act that needs to be vilified by our fellow writers.

I and other writers sincerely hope that you will stir the Akademi from its soporific stance and act. We need to fear no one in this matter.

Sincerely Yours
Keki N. Daruwalla

'Your moment of reckoning has come': GN Devy, Aman Sethi return Sahitya Akademi awards

see also
Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti
Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism in India
Rationalist under threat of arrest for exposing the “miracle”
India's god laws fail the test of reason
India's new theocracy

Voice of rationality silenced by two bullets, shot point-blank

The Broken Middle - my essay on the 30th anniversary of 1984
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: Inquiry Commission Report (1969)
The Abolition of truth
RSS tradition of manufacturing facts to suit their ideology
Communist Party of India's Homage to Gandhiji October 2, 1947 // Communist Party's Appeal to the People of Pakistan August 15, 1947
V.D. Savarkar and Gandhi’s murder
Madhu Limaye's (senior socialist leader) observations on the RSS (1979)

A Hard Rain Falling (on private armies and political violence in India) (EPW, July 2012)