Forget the past, Sahitya Akademi will not hesitate to speak up for writers: Akademi President
"I must make it clear that the Akademi condemns all attacks against writers and I am saddened by the news of Mauzo and Hareesh. I condemn these threats in the strongest of words. I wrote a letter to the people and sent it to my office yesterday," said Sahitya Akademi President Chandrashekhar Kambar, a recipient of the Jnanpith Award, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Padma Shri.
New Delhi: At a time when at least 26 well-known writers have written a letter to the Sahitya Akademi President Chandrashekhar Kambar, urging the National Academy of Letters to condemn the attacks against writers like S. Hareesh and Damodar Mauzo, the Akademi president, speaking to IANS, vociferously expressed that the Akademi was on a cusp of revival and that it will not hesitate to speak for the fraternity.
"I must make it clear that the Akademi condemns all attacks against writers and I am saddened by the news of Mauzo and Hareesh. I condemn these threats in the strongest of words. I wrote a letter to the people and sent it to my office yesterday," Kambar, a recipient of the Jnanpith Award, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Padma Shri told IANS over telephone from Bangalore.
The 81-year-old said that he will be writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and draw his attention to the "pressures and attacks" writers like Hareesh are facing.
"I am also trying to speak to the concerned minister (Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma) but he is not available. I have already written a letter to my secretary in Delhi as well and I will do everything possible to protect the rights of writers.
"The Akademi is meant to uphold free speech and I will not hesitate. I will talk," he said.
On being reminded that the same body took as many as 54 days to publicly condemn the killings of rational thinkers and writers M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar that had triggered massive protests by writers bringing the Akademi to a standstill in 2015, Kambar said that the past should be left behind as the Akademi was on a cusp of revival.
"Forget the past, we are doing everything in our capacity and we have taken a stand already, that we condemn these attacks against S. Hareesh and Damodar Mauzo," he said.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the Akademi said that it "condemns all attacks on writers, thinkers and poets, not only in India but all over the world".
It said that the Akademi received "the news of threat" to writers with "great pain".
"Sahitya Akademi strongly condemns these attacks and stand behind the writers' community of India," read the one-paragraph press statement from the Sahitya Akademi, signed by Kambar.
In what seems to be a reminder of the awardwapsi campaign in 2015, a collegium of heavyweight and multiple award winning writers such as Nayantara Sahgal, Keki Daruwalla, K. Satchidanandan, Ritu Menon, Jerry Pinto and, among several others, Meena Alexander have written to the akademi, urging it to condemn such instances.
"It is with a sense of considerable anxiety and dismay that we who belong to the community of writers, a community which holds fast to democratic and secular values enshrined in our constitution, have noticed recent developments relating to writers," said the letter to Akademi president under the banner of Indian Writers' Forum.
The writers' forum pointed out that the Akademi failed to take a "bold, public stand" in 2015.
"We hope this would not happen in your dispensation and that this big literary institution will take a brave stand now," the letter read.
Malayalam novelist S. Hareesh and his publisher DC Books have received numerous threats and messages of intimidation from some right wing outfits in the wake of his novel "Meesha".
Mauzo, a Goa-based Konkani novelist and short story writer, has been provided with police security in the wake of threats to his life from the Sanathan Sanstha, a right-wing organisation.
(Saket Suman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)