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Sahitya Akademi condemns intolerance, asks writers to take back awards

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New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi on Friday passed a resolution after a special meeting with writers condemning the prevailing atmosphere of intolerance and violence in the country while unanimously asking the authors to take back their awards and withdraw resignations.

In its resolution, the Sahitya Akademi condemned the killing of rationalist M M Kalburgi and demanded action in this regard besides urging the Centre and state governments to work together.

Over 100 litterateurs have returned their Akademi awards to protest primarily against the attacks by some Hindutva groups on writers and thinkers like Kalburgi.

Meanwhile, nearly 100 writers took out a peaceful march here on Friday to protest against increasing intolerance in the country.

Writers from across the country gathered at Shri Ram Centre near Mandi House and marched towards Sahitya Akademi in the capital, wearing black ribbons on their heads as a sign of protest.

The writers said that the protest was to express their anger against the government for letting anti-social incidents happen and also to attract attention of the academy towards the increasing attacks on litterateurs.

The protest was organised just before Sahitya Akademi’s emergency meeting to discuss various issues.

“Freedom of expression and speech is currently being suppressed in the country. Whatever is happening in the country nowadays, people belonging to minorities and schedule caste feel insecure,” a writer said in the protest.

“The government must take some concrete steps to stop such incidents which shatter nation’s secular fabric. Sahitya Akademi should also pressurize the government and pass some resolution against increasing attacks on the writers,” the protester added.

Earlier this month several writers had returned their awards to register their protest against increasing intolerance in the country.

In an interesting turn of events, there was a protest by another group of writers against the protesting writers at the same venue.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Efforts to Contain Spread of Ebola Virus to Remain Elusive Unless Cycle of Violence is Broken

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus

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Ebola, Violence, WHO
Ebola workers enter a house to decontaminate the body of a woman suspected of dying from Ebola, before the vehicle of the health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo will remain elusive unless the vicious cycle of violence in the region is broken.  Latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2284, including 1540 deaths and 637 survivors.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response Ibrahima Soce Fall says there has been good progress in scaling up operations to contain the spread of the deadly ebola virus in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Fall has just returned from a three-month stint in Butembo, the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in DR Congo.  He says last week there were 79 new Ebola cases, 27 fewer than the previous week.  He says infections are continuing to fall in the major urban centers of Butembo and Katwa thanks to coverage in all 33 health areas.

At the same time, he tells VOA the operation is running into difficulty in the rural areas of Mabalako and Mandima, the new hot spots of the epidemic.

Ebola, Violence, WHO
Congolese security forces attend the scene after the vehicle of a health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

“The access is more challenging.  In the same area, we have some villages where you have both ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) armed group coming from Uganda and some Mai Mai groups,” said Fall.  “So, access needs to be assessed on a daily basis to be able to move up to the intervention.  So, it is really important to take into account this very volatile situation.”

Eastern DRC has been politically unstable since 1998.   There are an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people in the country.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says new displacements are occurring mainly in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North and South Kivu.  More than 100 armed groups reportedly are engaged in sporadic fighting in the region.

Fall says constant and skilled negotiations with the armed groups are needed to gain access to these volatile areas.

“The outbreak started there last year and spread to other areas,” Fall said. “So, it is important to break this vicious cycle to contain very quickly the situation in Mabalako and Mandima, where we have more than 55 percent of the cases coming from.”

Also Read- Americans Arrive in Canada Seeking Affordable Prices for Insulin

Fall says it will be exceedingly difficult to contain the virus if more money is not immediately forthcoming.   He says $98 million is needed to support the government-led response to defeat ebola.  To date, he says less than half that amount has been received. (VOA)