No Time For Silence: Ashok Vajpeyi on Why He Is Returning His Sahitya Akademi Award

The following is a short note the poet, writer and litterateur has written to the Sahitya Akademi explaining his decision to return the award he had received in 1994. On October 5, 2015, the writer Nayantara Sahgal returned her award.
Ashok Vajpeyi. Credit: Krakow Festival/Tomasz Wiech

Ashok Vajpeyi. Credit: Krakow Festival/Tomasz Wiech

These are very difficult times for literature, the arts, tradition and culture.The plurality, accommodation and inclusion, openness, multi-linguality and multi-religiosity which have sustained and energised us for us are all under assault constantly.

We are on the brink of a tyranny of uniformity and parochialism. Violence, murder, intolerance, bans are creating a fearful ethos. Being in a minority is almost a crime.

In such times, we, the members of the creative community, cannot keep quiet and watch these trends helplessly.

At this juncture, the silence of the Sahitya Akademi is very objectionable. You are a national body of writers. Some of them have been murdered in broad daylight and the Akademi has said nothing about it nor has it pressurised the government to have these stopped and ensure the prompt arrest of the killers.

In this sad context, as a writer all that I can do is to return the Sahitya Akademi Award (which I received in 1994) by way of protest.

I do not remember the amount I received.

A cheque of one lakh rupees is enclosed.

Ashok Vajpeyi,
October 6, 2015

Categories: Books, Rights

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    (1) Three murders–those of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, comrade Govind Pansare and Shri
    M M Kalburgi, Kannada scholar and rationalist, within a span some 26 months tell
    us about growing intolerance and the State’s unwillingness or inability to deal
    firmly with those who take law into
    their own hands. Are they a grim reminder of bitter social reality, of
    religious intolerance as also of rise of influence of the fundamentalists? It
    is obvious that groups of individuals with extreme views are gaining ground. Is
    that because of electoral success of BJP? In the past it was not unusual for
    organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to criticise individuals who are opposed to
    VHP & other fundamentalists as anti-Hindu. But now these fundamentalists
    are emboldened and they demand imprisonment (and even physical elimination) of
    those who are opposed to VHP. This is
    nothing but fascist agenda. Danger is that now it has become rather easy for
    organizations like VHP to justify even physical elimination of those who are
    opposed to their right wing Hindu extremism. (2) Question is what kind of future the leadership of BJP sees for the
    party. Influence of groups with strong rightist/ fundamentalist
    views, who would play the religion
    card unashamedly, will grow if top leadership succumbs to such groups. Saner
    elements in BJP would then be marginalised and eventually thrown out of the
    party. (3) Hence, it is absolutely necessary for citizens’
    groups to take a firm political stand against use of religion and violence /murders
    in the name of Hinduism. I believe return of Sahitya Akademy Award by Shri
    Ashok Vajpeyi should be seen in this context and not from a political angle, viewed
    from this angle.

  • PWA

    Bravo Mr Vajpeyi… Your statement is so telling, the Sahitya Academy should of course be ashamed but I wonder who are running the show at the Academy right now.. If it is run by the right wing elements, like the increasing number of the IITs and other institutes, then it is not a big surprise I guess.. In fact that seems to be the modus operandi, control all the instituitions first and make sure there are no dissents from any where…


    Great! Read your note to the Sahitya Akademi. I wish I could afford to return the money already spent on my surgery. But let’s write an open letter to Modi. We are not protesting only the killing of writers but of all people creative or not. Mridula Garg

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