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Returning awards may not be right way to protest: Sangeet Natak Akademi awardees

Sahitya award

Returning awards by writers may not be the correct way to agitate against intolerance but they are entitled to decide the way they want to protest, feel dance, drama and music artistes who received Sangeet Natak Akademi awards on Friday.

Doyen of Indian theatre M S Sathyu and 38 others received the coveted Sangeet Natak Akademi awards from President Pranab Mukherjee today amid raging protest by several writers who have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards over “rising intolerance” in the country.

“I was confused. Akademis are autonomous bodies. It’s an insult to those people who selected you for those awards. People who have selected us are experts in their fields. Returning awards is an insult to people who have selected you for the awards,” said Sathyu.

Condemning the recent communal killings, he said killings happened earlier also, but such kind of lynching of someone because of suspicion of his food habits did not happen before and it is law which has to act.

“Rationalists are being killed which is a rightist attitude. So that was the confusion. But after consulting people, I decided to accept the award,” he said.

At least 35 writers from across the country had over the past few weeks announced their decision to return their Sahitya Akademi awards and stepped down from official Akademi positions to protest the “rising intolerance” in the country.

Deb Sankar Halder, who received Akademi award for Acting, said, “This is their (writers’) decision, their principle to protest. What can I say about their decision? I have taken the award. It’s my decision.”

Surya Mohan Kulshreshtha who received the award for Direction, said, “They may be having their own logic. Their concerns on what is happening in the society are justified concerns. The protests should happen. Returning awards can be one of the many forms of protests which can be adopted but not the only way.” He said Uday Prakash had first returned the Sahitya Akademi Award saying no condolence was done by the Akademi after the killing of scholar M M Kalburgi.

“So the complaint is somehow also linked to functioning of Sahitya Akademi as well, so they are returning. We do not see any such negative role of Sangeet Natak Akademi so far. So there was no reason to return the award,” he said.

The Director, known for works like Sophocles’ King Oedipus, Kalidasa’s Malvikagnimitram, said, “The awards should not be politicised but Sahitya Akademi writers feel they are part of one family.

“Now if they feel that Akademi does not condemn killing of one of their family members, they may think what’s the use of being part of such family, but its only they can tell.”

“We are musicians we are away from politics. Music is different and politics is different. Sangeet Akademi award is big honour. Returning it is insult of the honour,” said musician Iqbal Ahmed Khan.

However, yielding to unrelenting protests by writers, the Sahitya Akademi today strongly condemned the killing of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and others while urging litterateurs to take back awards they have returned.

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