December 20, 2015

KARNATAKA: Writers of Four States who have Returned Awards Meet in Dharwad

G N Nagaraj

ON November 27, a unique meet was held in Dharwad, the place where Prof Kalburgi was recently murdered. Writers who had returned their awards to Sahitya Akademi and various other academics and government servants from four states came together to tell the people why they had returned their awards. The occasion was the birthday of Prof Kalburgi. A group of writers from Gujarat under the leadership of Dr Ganesh Devy who had returned his Sahitya Akademi and Padma Sri awards, started a yatra from their state which they called Dakshinayan. They were joined by a group of cinema producers, actors, painters from Mumbai. They visited the houses of Dhabolkar and Pansare on his birthday and conducted meetings in both Poona and Kolhapur which were widely attended by literary persons, artists and scientists. In all these meetings, they explained why they had returned their awards.

Then they proceeded towards Dharwad to meet the family of Prof. Kalburgi. In Dharwad, another stream from Goa joined them along with the writers of Karnataka. And it became a river as they travelled through the streets of Dharwad. They visited Prof Kalburgi’s house and offered their condolences to his wife, son and daughter.

In the dialogue with the press and in the seminar organised by Prof. Kalburgi Hatya Virodhi Samithi of Karnataka, they declared in unequivocal terms that they will carry on the fight against intolerance and attack on freedom of expression and spread it to all corners of the country. In the second leg of their journey, they will continue their Dakshinayan to reach the southern most point ie, Kanyakumari. They would travel to Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Dr Ganesh Devy explained what caused him to decide to return the award. He said he was presiding over a seminar in Nagpur organised by Sahitya Akademi itself when the news of heinous murder of Kalburgi reached him. But the authorities of the Sahitya Akademi did nothing, not even offered a minute of silence as a form of condolence. Then he had to announce that he would be offering his condolence on his own and stood silently for a minute. Then the entire audience stood up and offered condolences. It was then that he decided to return his awards. From then on, he was pestered by many including journalists to question his decision and was charged that he was maligning the country’s name etc. He asked which act maligned the country. Whether it was murder of Dhabolkar,Pansare and Kalburgi which maligned the country or return of awards ?

Another Sahitya Akademi award winner, Joshi from Gujarat who is a famous Gujarati poet declared that they have taken up a swachh bharat abhiyan but this is a swahch bharat abhiyan of the minds of people. Then the artists and film makers, directors from Mumbai, writers from Goa who had worked with Kalburgi on a project of translation of vachanas of Lingayat saints into Konkani, writers who had returned their awards like Sri Rahamath Tarikere. Prof. RK Hudugi, director of Rangayana and president of Samudaya and Sri Iliger also from Samudaya both of whom  returned their Sangeet Natak Akademi awards, K Neela who had returned her Kannada Sahitya Parishad award, Muddu Theertha Halli, a seventeen years old youngest of the writers to return award from Karnataka, all of them received a standing ovation from respected writers and audience. They explained how they were pained by the limitations imposed on the freedom of expression and how they were maligned by communal forces.

Finally it was declared by Dr Ganesh Devy that on January 30, the martyrs day on which Gandhiji was shot, a national meet of all the writers and artists who have returned their awards and who have raised their voice of protest against the attack on freedom of expression will be organised in Dandi from where Gandhiji started his famous Dandi march for salt satyagraha. This announcement was met with an uproar of welcome from the audience. Literary personalities from Karnataka declared there itself that they will start a Dandi yathra in thousands, in remembrance of the satyagrahis from Karnataka who had joined the Dandi march of 1930.