Kerketta was selected for the Aaj Tak Sahitya Jagriti Udyaman Pratibha Samman.
Distressed about the lack of respect being given to Adivasis in Manipur, Adivasi writer Jacinta Kerketta, refused an award from the India Today group for her work.
Kerketta is an acclaimed writer, poet and journalist from Jharkhand and a member of the Oraon Adivasi community. Her work has highlighted the plight of Adivasi communities. On November 21, she said she received a call and a message about being selected for the Aaj Tak Sahitya Jagriti Udyaman Pratibha Samman for her book Ishwar aur Bazaar, published in 2022. The award came along with a prize of Rs 50,000.
There are eight categories in the Sahitya Aaj Tak awards to promote and honour Indian language and literature. The awards will be held at the National Stadium in New Delhi for three days, starting today. The book Ishwar aur bazar also focuses on religion, power, and grassroot struggles of tribals.
But Kerketta chose not to accept the honour. An India Today representative confirmed the same.
“This is coming at a time when the respect for life of the tribals of Manipur is ending,” she told Newslaundry. “The respect for life of the tribals in central India is disappearing as well, and people from other communities are also being attacked continuously in the global society. My mind remains distressed and I am not feeling any thrill or happiness with this acknowledgment.”
Kerketta also emphasised that this wasn’t about singling out a particular media house.
“The whole country knows how some reputed mainstream media houses and news channels were maintaining silence on the incidents in Manipur,” she said. “Mainstream media has never tried to bring to light the plight of Adivasis in a respectful manner. It’s not just about one media house, but any decision I take will definitely be influenced by how the so-called mainstream media of the country plays its role towards marginalised people.”
The writer told Newslaundry that in response to her declining the award, Aaj Tak’s representative told her that he has great respect for this pain and her grassroots struggle, and that civilised society and sensitive humans also feel the same. He also acknowledged to her that her writings have continuously raised a strong voice in favour of justice and humanity.
Kerketta said: “When we write a book, the book becomes important for society, but the people do not. This is not our way of looking at things. We want to celebrate our work collectively…What should a writer or poet do just for his own respect? Because of these things, I refused to accept the honour.”