Poet Uday Prakash: Under this regime, no one is safe

I feel that neither the political system we are living in, which we ourselves have chosen, nor its institutions care for us.

 |  4-minute read |   16-10-2015
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Authors neither come with a political party nor a religious sect, instead, they stand with the ordinary citizens of a democratic society and the disadvantaged "last man". Gandhiji once said this to the rulers of the country.

You might remember, five days before my decision to return the Sahitya Akademi award, on August 30, a noted author of Kannada literature and scholar of Vachan literature, 76-year-old MM Kalburgi was murdered at his home in Dharwad, Karnataka.

Prior to this, scholars and reformers like Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, too, were killed ruthlessly. All these important writers and thinkers were aged and vulnerable, just the way we all are, and unarmed against crimes. Those accused of their murders have still not been caught.

It is true that it is not happening just in the case of writers and thinkers, but with ordinary citizens as well, as recently seen in Dadri, where Akhlaq was lynched by a mob.

What is worrying is that all these incidents were taken as cases of sporadic crimes, or were viewed through a political prism. This must end. If it is not prevented, our country's constitutional spirit will be crushed.

Now, under this system, no one is safe against offenders. After the assassination of Kalburgi, at the very least, the institution that bestowed an award on him should have expressed anxiety or concern. It was painful that the said institution, the Sahitya Akademi, didn’t even send a condolence message to the family, nor hold a condolence meeting.

I feel that neither the political system we are living in, which we ourselves have chosen, nor its institutions care for us. They are working for some other purpose.

I too have been awarded for my work Mohandas in 2010-11 by the Sahitya Akademi in the same manner. I feel that those awards don’t carry any sense or logic. They are merely given away for the sake of festivals and entertainment.

We are witnessing an increase in intolerance for any kind of dissent in the society. Offensive and threatening calls and messages start to pour in for the slightest of issues. There is threat and physical violence too.

It has been said that those who disagree should leave the country and go to Pakistan. Any individual who does not agree with a handful of fanatics is termed "anti-national". In such an environment, Kalburgi was killed and I decided to return my award.

Now many leaders are asking us why we didn't return this award when Emergency was imposed in 1975 or during the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, the Mumbai riots of 1992 or Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. Those were communal riots. The fact is that no writer can be directed about when he should express his resistance. I was just 23 years old in 1975.

Even at the time, not only I, but several other writers of eminence had lodged their protest through their compositions. Many names come to mind immediately: Baba Nagarjuna, Bhavani Prasad Mishra, Mahadevi Verma, Agyeya, Phanishwarnath Renu, to name a few. Along with others, I got the Sahitya Akademi award just a few years ago. How could we have returned it at the time?

Yes, there are many ways and means to protest and express dissent - returning awards is not the only one. All of these means have been adopted from time to time.

As far as riots among communities, castes and groups are concerned, everyone knows that they don’t just happen, they are made to happen. Note that Kalburgi, Pansare and Dabholkar were not killed in communal riots; these were assassinations.

Furthermore, riots or any other act of violence are not in the interest of the society and the public.

The latest examples of such intolerance can be seen in the way Ghulam Ali was prevented from performing in Mumbai and Pune. Arts and sports are two fields that don’t break society, but weld it together. There have been countless surveys worldwide, which have proved that there are fewer incidents of riots or mutual violence in places where people play a sport or are interested in artistic and cultural activities, as the spirit of mutual interaction is maintained by it.

Our society is not a homogenous one. There are, not one but many cultures, religions, castes, communities and identities.

Democracy has been intact till date through their cooperation. The great author Rabindranath Tagore called this country an ocean of humanity, where numerous rivers come and merge. Another great poet, Mohammad Iqbal, said, "Kuchh baat hai ki hasti mitati nahi hamari; sadiyon raha hai dushman daur-e zaman hamara (There is something about our existence for it doesn't get wiped out; even though, for centuries, the time-cycle of the world has been our enemy.)."

This country belongs not only to communalists, bigots and cunning political players, but also to writers, scientists, thinkers and the ordinary working people.

Today, don’t they find themselves unsafe?

(This article has been translated from the Hindi. It first appeared in India Today Hindi.)


Uday Prakash Uday Prakash @udayprakash2009

Senior Hindi poet and storyteller.

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