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Four more Punjabi littérateurs to return Akademi awards

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Chandigarh: Noted Punjab-based poet Surjit Patar was among the four littérateurs who announced on Monday that they will return their Sahitya Akademi awards to protest against the growing atmosphere of intolerance in the country.

Besides Patar, the other three poets and writers who announced that they would return their awards were Jaswinder Singh, Baldev Singh Sadaknama and Darshan Bhuttar.

In a joint statement, Jaswinder Singh, Sadaknama and Bhuttar said that they were giving up their awards “to protest against the atmosphere of terror which was being created” by certain elements.

Patar told media that he was giving up the award, “which is close to my heart with a heavy heart” due to recent happenings in the country.

On Sunday, well-known Punjabi writers who announced giving up their literary awards included Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Gurbachan Bhullar and Canada-based writer Waryam Sandhu.

All the Punjabi writers have said that they were raising their voice against rising “intolerance” and “suppressing freedom of expression”.

The litterateurs said that they were giving up their awards to protest against the killings of writers MM Kalburgi in Karnataka (in August) and Narendra Dabholkar (in 2013), stressing that they were shocked at the level of intolerance on freedom of speech and expression. They pointed out that free speech and writing was being suppressed.

They also said that the recent lynching of a Muslim man on suspicion of eating beef showed that a communal atmosphere was being built up.

(IANS)

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No connection between Pansare, Dabhodhar, Kalburgi murders, says govt

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New Delhi: While political pundits in India attributed the poor performance of the BJP in the Bihar polls to the ‘growing intolerance’ and the killing of rationalists Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and MM Kalburgi, the government in the Centre on Wednesday said, the gruesome incidents were not connected.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told Rajya Sabha that as per available information, there is no report to suggest any linkage/connection between the murders of Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and MM Kalburgi.

Speaking during the Question Hour, he further clarified that there was no proposal to outlaw the right-wing group Santhan Sanstha.

Santhan Sanstha came into the fore for all the wrong reasons when one of its activists was arrested for his alleged involvement with the murder of Pansare.

However, Sanathan Sanstha admitted that the accused was its member, but it rubbished any party’s role in the killing.

Rijiju further said that law enforcing agencies are constantly monitoring the activities of the organisation which are said to spread tension. The government is committed to ensuring maintenance of peace and communal harmony in the country, he added.

A left-wing politician and author, Pansare, was shot on February 16, 2015, in Kolhapur, Maharashtra.  While Dabholkar was murdered on August 2013, Kalburgi was shot on August this year.

Several Sahitya Academy award winner denounced their prize for the government’s inaction to take speedy action against the culprit.

The government’s alleged failure to contain the situation drew flak from several quarters of the civil society. Besides, the ‘award wapsi‘ programme, there were other rallies and marches to protest the deaths.

The Lalu-Nitish coalition in Bihar made good use of the situation to stop the BJP juggernaut and leapfrogged the NDA to assume power in Bihar.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Social boycott to be abolished in Maharashtra

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Mumbai: Maharashtra would soon be India’s first state to come up with a law condemning the act of social boycott by caste panchayats on families or individuals.

Any action pertaining to social boycott has been ruled as a crime according to the draft of the act –‘Maharashtra Prohibition of Social Boycott Act, 2015’, which was published on the state government website on Wednesday.

The heinous practices of the caste panchayats had been protested against by rationalist Narendra Dabholkar before he was murdered in Pune. Several activists and academics have also raised their voices for a law against the practice going on for years.

Maharashtra, in recent times saw an increased number of social boycott incidents and violence pushed by the caste panchayats when their rules weren’t followed.

This is not Maharashtra’s first time in enacting such laws as it was also the first state in the country to pass the anti-superstition law.

The accused, according to the act, would complete trial within six months of the charge sheet being filed. If proven guilty, the accused will face seven years of jail time or Rs 5 lakh fine, or both.

The new act defines ‘Caste Panchayat’ as a registered or unregistered body formed by a group of any community, which functions inside that community to control different practices carried out there. It controls personal and societal behaviours of the community members and works out disputes collectively and ‘resolves’ them by issuing oral or written dictums

Either a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class, whichever the case needed, would have the authority to deem the offence under this act as bailable or triable.

Provision has also been made for the appointment of a Social Boycott Prohibition Officer who would detect crimes in violation of this act. The officer would also provide support to the police officers and the magistrate in their duties.

“It is a positive step from the government and we will be sending our suggestions to the draft. One of the major suggestions would be to make these crimes non-bailable. Hopefully we will succeed in it,” prominent anti-caste panchayat activist in Maharashtra, Krushna Chandgude, told The Hindu.

Advocate Asim Sarode also commended this move by the government, saying that it would encourage more activists to work in this field. Sarode had submitted his own draft to formulate an act.

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Will return award if Sahitya Akademi fails to protect writers rights: Vikram Seth

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New Delhi: Famed author Vikram Seth says that he would return his award, if the Sahitya Akademi fails to protect the lives and rights of writers.

“I will return the award almost certainly if this institution fails to protect or robustly defend free speech or lives of writers. I didn’t want it to sound like a threat. However, I fully expect this institution do something worthy of their name and history,” Seth told IANS after the launch of his book, ‘The Summer Requiem’ here on Tuesday night.

The Akademi is slated to meet on October 23. If Seth does return his award, he will join a growing list of writers and academicians who have returned their award in protest against what they said was growing intolerance against writers and free thinkers.

The Padma Shri awardee has been trolled on Twitter on his support for those who had returned their awards. He said he would join the list of award returnees if the Akademi remains mealy-mouthed on freedom of expression. The author received the Akademi award in 1988 for his novel ‘The Golden Gate’.

Earlier, participating in a discussion with David Davidar of Aleph publishing, Seth hailed the decision of many writers to return their Akademi awards, saying that it was not a concerted action.

“I don’t think writers returning award is a concerted action. It’s not easy to return awards and I would call it as a courageous act. The award is a mark of recognition that you receive in your rather isolated professional life,” he said.

Seth also expressed anguish over Akademi’s mute response to the killing of writer M M Kalburgi and two more rationalists. “I heard that when poet Keki N Daruwalla wrote to the Akademi after the killing of writer M M Kalburgi, he only got a telephone call saying that there was pressure,” he said adding that Akademi has to stand up for writers.

“Pressure? Pressure not to say that the murder of Kalburgi or Pansare was wrong? Pressure not to speak out against or attempt to gag people who speak their minds? What kind of pressure is this?” Seth asked.

Seth said that he hasn’t spoken to other writers on the issue, but was waiting for the outcome of the October 23 meeting.

“I haven’t spoken to others but there might be people who think in that state. All bets are off that an institution which behaves like that is perhaps not something we have to accept awards from,” Seth said.

Seth had faced barbs in social media over receiving awards from ex-Union minister Jagdish Tytler in 2005. Seth said he was unaware that he was to accept award from the Congress leader, who was allegedly involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

“When I realised that Pravasi Bharatiya Samman is going to be given by Jagdish Tytler, I consulted my parents. They said that if I don’t accept, it will be an insult to the nation. So I went ahead,” Seth said.

However, he had refrained from shaking hands with Tytler as a protest. “I told my parents that under no circumstances, I would shake hands with him. I loathe what happened in 1984 and not only at the time of riots. Even the entire election campaign, which followed it, was nasty,” Seth said.

The author, known for his works like ‘A Suitable Boy’ and ‘Equal Music’, read a couple of poems during the launch. ‘A Suitable Girl’, a sequel to ‘A Suitable Boy’ is scheduled to be published next year.

The launch of ‘The Summer Requiem’, held at Taj Mahal hotel, coincided with Seth’s mother Leila Seth’s 85th birthday.

(Preetha Nair, IANS)