At a time when India is engrossed in debating freedom of expression and known writers have returned their Sahitya Academy awards to protest the killing of rationalists in the country, union culture minister Mahesh Sharma has said, “If writers are unable to write, let them first stop writing. We will then see.” On IndiaHangout, an eminent panel of writers discuss if writers can really stop writing.
This panel comprised of noted writers – Tushar Gandhi, Shashi Deshpande (she has returned her Sahitya Academy award), Sanjoy Roy and Meghna Pant.
Should writers stop writing?
Sanjay Roy, MD, Teamwork Films said, “Writers write because they have a volition to write. They write not about themselves but about others and about things that need to be written about.
The writer’s protest symbolized by them returning their awards was primarily to voice their anger on the silence of the academy on the death of Prof. Kalburgi. This action is the most fundamental way to protest against intolerance. The growing intolerance sweeping our country is unacceptable.
Should the writer’s exist in relevance to the government and their policies or independently?
Tushar Gandhi, an eminent writer pointed out that the writer’s daily ability should be free of day-to-day politics but relevant to the situation of the present. It cannot ignore ground reality and exist in the abstract. Everybody has the right to comment but writers have a bigger responsibility of creating opinion. A writer’s work is the barometer or the indicator of the health of a society. Good writers create to a stimulus and hence they are much more sensitive to the ongoings.
Shashi Deshpande, a novelist spoke about her decision to return her Sahitya award. “My action was to highlight the academy’s silence on the death of a writer who was part of it. He was killed for his views and hence all the academies should have spoken sooner. I am disappointed by the lack of response from the academy and my resignation is because I cannot work in an institution that does not support its members.
Is the Sahitya Academy an extension of the government or can it be seen as such?
Shashi Deshpande explained that the academy has never involved minister’s and such, even during functions but the institute has become very bureaucratic. I do feel that many a times, depending on who is in the chair, the sentiments of the government are adhered to. Obviously, I cannot generalize but inspite of all the rules nothing should stop you from saying that ‘we are sorry that this man was killed.’
Tushar Gandhi stressed the point that the incidences in the last one year are an indicator of where we as a country are headed. One cannot take up an ostrich like attitude and be immune to the going-ons in society. Writer’s have throughout history enhanced the aesthetics of society. Sahitya Academy was an institution that had writers who were also activists and opinion-makers and socialists. This has been our tradition since independence days.
Meghna Pant, Author said that she was quite surprised by the Culture Minister’s comment. No writer is going to stop writing because by simply being a writer the individual has chosen the path of courage.
The Future of India as an open society?
Sanjoy Roy underscored the point by adding that he had a sense of great foreboding because instances are adding up over the year. “The state always takes a back seat when this kind of hooliganism takes the stage. Writers, artists are soft targets. How do we never see a politician or a minister targeted or lynched for their views and thoughts.”