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India: Text of memorandum submitted by the march of writer’s from Mandi House to the Sahitya Akademi on 23 Oct 2015

23 October 2015

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sacw.net - 23 October 2015

MEMORANDUM TO THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OF SAHITYA AKADEMI

WE, the writers, reading public and cultural activists who have assembled at the gate of Sahitya Akademi on the occasion of its Executive Board meeting dated 23-10-2015 express our protest and angst against the ever growing fascistic tendencies and violent intolerance in the country which has posed a danger to freedom of expression and other civil liberties guaranteed by our nation’s Constitution.

We express our solidarity with all those eminent writers and cultural activists who have taken a historic initiative of protest by way of returning Akademi awards, other awards or by writing protest letters to the President of the Akademi or by issuing their statements to the press and media against the political atmosphere of murders and violence which needs condemnation from all quarters. We demand of the Executive Board of the Akademi as follows:

• The Board should condemn in unambiguous terms this atmosphere of intolerance and violence that is taking a toll of freedom of expression and other civil liberties. One may note that the President of India recently expressed publicly his concern over this state of affairs twice.

• The Board should express its firm resolve to safeguard the autonomy of Akademi that itself is in peril and by way of adopting a resolution it should ensure that at this moment of threat to freedom of expression and right to dissent the Akademi will not hesitate to take a firm initiative to safeguard the constitutional rights of writers.

• The Board should condemn the attitude of Akademi President, Dr. Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari that manifest itself in his interviews and statements on this issue. He terms the act of returning Akademi awards as ‘illogical’ and holds that if writers have some problem with the Government, why should they target Akademi for it. We may remind him that after the assassination of Prof. M. M. Kalburgi, Akademi failed even to express its condolences. When a delegation of 12 writers of various organisations met him on 16th September with the request to hold a condolence meeting for Prof. Kalburgi at New Delhi, he refused to do so. Thus he timidly evaded his duty at this historic juncture to stand firmly on the side of those who love their freedom of creative expression and right to dissent. Moreover, Dr. Tiwari issued an insulting statement saying that Akademi obliged writers by printing their books in various languages, thus they earned money and fame. The fact is that Akademi earned more than the royalty given to the writers. This type of shameful attitude needs condemnation from the Executive Board. In case he does not apologise for this arrogance and rudeness, the Board should pass a resolution against him and demand of his resignation.

• The Executive Board should resolve to hold a condolence meeting for Prof. Kalburgi at Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi and thus take a firm stand against the acts of violence and murders of writers so as to safeguard the freedom of expression and civil liberties.

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full text of the statement by the Akademi’s executive board on 23 Oct 2015, following its emergency meeting and also taking stock of protests by writers:

"The Executive Board of the Sahitya Akademi, at its special meeting on 23rd October 2015, is deeply pained and strongly condemns the murder of Prof MM Kalburgi and the other intellectuals and thinkers. As the only autonomous institution of Indian Literature in all its diversities, the Akademi firmly supports the writers’ right to freedom of expression in all the languages of India and condemns any atrocity against any writer anywhere in the country in the strongest of words and asks Governments at the center and in the States to take immediate action to bring the culprits to book and to ensure the security of writers now and in the future. The spirit of plurality that Indian culture embodies has been a much sought after ideal for the rest of the world. This is what should be protected. Sahitya Akademi demands that Center and States maintain the ambience of peaceful coexistence in the societies and it urges various communities of our society to put aside the differences on the grounds of caste, religion, region and ideologies.

Sahitya Akademi is an organisation of writers for writers, an institution guided solely by writers. All its decisions including those on the awards are made only by the writers. In this context, we request the authors who returned awards or have dissociated themselves with the Akademi to reconsider their decisions.

Akademi’s Executive Board believes that the cooperation of writers should strengthen the autonomy of the Akademi which has been held high in the 61 years of its history.

This meeting of Executive Board notes that upon the assassination of Prof. Kalburgi, the President of the Akademi had telephonically requested the Vice-President to contact Prof. Kalburgi’s family and to convey the sense of pain and outrage felt by the Akademi.

Within hours of the murder of Prof. M.M. Kalburgi, the Vice-President, the Convener of Kannada Advisory Board and some eminent Kannada writers strongly condemned the dastardly murder at a public meeting. Within days, they accompanied the family members of Prof. Kalburgi to meet the Chief Minister of Karnataka to ask for immediate investigation into the crime and protection for the family. The Akademi held a special public condolence meeting on 30th September 2015 at Bangalore in honour of Prof. M.M. Kalburgi where a large number of eminent writers condemned the assassination and paid their tribute to him.

In following weeks, many other language Conveners issued, on behalf of the Akademi, public statements condemning the incident and demanding justice. In Srinagar, the Convener of Kashmiri Advisory Board along with Conveners of six languages publicly condemned the murder. In Hyderabad, Telugu writers, at the behest of the Convener of Telugu language, issued a public statement of strong condemnation of the assassination.

The Executive Board reconfirms this condemnation of the assassination of Prof. Kalburgi and records its own sense of pain and outrage at the atrocities against and the murders of authors in the past. It also condemns the violence against fellow citizens from different walks of life.

The Executive Board unanimously endorses the diligent and vigilant leadership provided by the President to keep the dignity of the Akademi intact and uphold the tradition and legacy of the Akademi."