Stoking new fires into the 2015 award wapsi protests, a Kannada writer has refused to accept the Karnataka Sahitya Akademi Award citing growing intolerance and the systemic suppression of dissent. In his interview to OneIndia, G Rajashekhar, the author of Bahuvachana Bharata, said that he was disturbed over quelling of dissent, killing of rationalists and the intolerance in civil society in the country these past years.
Rajashekhar stated that although he is yet to get an official communiqué, he has, through the media, made it clear that he shall not accept the award.
The Karnataka Sahitya Academy confirmed to OneIndia that they had already dispatched the official communication about his award. "We have informed his family members as well as sent across official communication. He, on the other hand, has not conveyed his intention to return the award yet. There may have been a delay in our letter reaching him. We have learnt of his decision to refuse the award through the media and are awaiting his official response," said Malati Pattanashetty, President, Karnataka Sahitya Academy.
In an exclusive chat with OneIndia, the author asserted his position against what he perceives as repressing political dissent.
1. Why the decision to return the award?
I learnt from the media that my book had been chosen for the Sahitya Academy award. I am grateful to the academy and honoured by this recognition but I will not accept it. It seems absurd for me to accept a political award given the situation in the country. Since 2015 writers have been protesting against rising intolerance in the country by either refusing to accept awards or returning the awards that have been given to them. I too register my protest by refusing to accept this award. I am disappointed in the way dissent is being quelled in the country.
2. In light of the award wapsi trend that began in 2015, how relevant is your protest today?
I believe that the situation is only worsening. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is being given a free hand. It behaves like the remote control of the government. It will be a year since Rohith Vemula's suicide in a few days. While politicians have no regret over his death, we are debating about his caste, if he were a Dalit or an OBC. The choice of food and culture is being forced upon people; there is no regret over Mohammad Akhlaq's killing. Intolerance is everywhere. What happened to probes into the murders of rationalists? Where has the investigation reached in Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi's murder? Have the culprits been brought to the books? Why doesn't anyone speak about it? This is my way of protesting against all of this.
3. Do you think that refusing an award will make a difference and bring about change?
No, I am not hopeful of any change. I don't see any difference between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The RSS is present country-wide; has that been changed? I am not optimistic about change at all but mine is a small voice of dissent at a time when it is being quelled. There was no difference in 2015 when awards were being returned and there is going to be no change now.
4. Many writers who returned awards were criticised for not being outraged over murders of members of right-wing organisations. Your critics could say that your sympathy was reserved only for victims from the Left?
My sympathies are with all victims but an entire community hasn't targeted people from the right wing. The situations under which they were targeted also needs to be taken into consideration. There is the government, police and establishment to investigate into the matters. I am protesting violence against the civil society, not necessarily the Left or the Right. Fascism needs to be stopped. Minorities are being targeted and it is the RSS that is targeting them. Who is responsible for the unrest in coastal Karnataka? Clearly the Sangh Parivar.