Devanooru Mahadeva is the latest Kannada writer to join the every growing number of writers, intellectuals, scientists, academcians, and others who have returned awards given to them by the government of India.
On Saturday, Devanooru announced his decision to return two awards given to him for literary achievements. One of the most distinguished writers of the Kannada language, Devanooru had declined to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha as a writer in the 1990s.
Devanooru is considered as one of the best writers in the language, both because he focused attention on caste and also because of his concept of realism. Severl of his works are in the Chamrajnagar dialect of Kannada, which is also a political choice.
He won the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel Kusuma Baale. His other works include Odalala (pronounced oDalaaLa), Edege Bidda Akshara.
Devanooru has thrice declined to chair the Akhila Bharata Kannada Sahitya Sammelan over the lack of the state governmentâs political will to implement Kannada as the medium of instruction in schools.
Below, is the full text of his letter, citing the reasons he chose to return his awards:
I have always believed that for every government to remain sensitive and society-oriented, writers, artists and intellectuals should act like the restraining bridle. However, much against my nature, I have controlled myself from reacting in the present context of âreturning awards against intoleranceâ. But when some writers and artists organised themselves in support of the ruling government, I felt it was a sure sign of evil. Disgusted by this development, I am now returning the Central Sahitya Akademi award and the Padmashri award. Returning them now, I know, is only symbolic in a way. I feel awkward that I am not able to return the position and prestige I may have obtained indirectly through these awards.
The dreams nurtured by our freedom struggle â freedom of expression, tolerance and social justice â have somehow dwindled after the Nehru era and are now in jeopardy. Those values may not be tangible or materially visible, but they are like the very breath of the cultural, social India we need to build. The lack of this awareness appears to be the reason for todayâs intolerance. Otherwise we would not have witnessed the tragedy of the leaders of the central government themselves saying that incidents like that of Dadri and killings caused by ideological differences are the problems of the respective states. Similarly, the central law minister, who should at least know that the returning of awards by intellectuals is an expression of non co-operation in protest against social and cultural intolerance, would not have made the self-destructive comment that âit is intellectual intolerance against Modi.â Instead, he should have accepted it as helpful for the ruling government to become more sensitive to such issues. Similarly again, the powerful Pejawar pontiff saying in ridicule âwould they remain silent if pork were to be cooked in front of a masjidâ is also an example of the same state of mind. Who has to say that it is not proper for the mind of the pontiff of the Krishna Mata to be filled with masjid and pork? Such attitudes among those in power and the vested are knowingly or unknowingly provoking greater intolerance and violence in society.
The group which is now indulging in violent excesses of intolerance is emboldened by the feeling that those whom it voted to power are now in the central government and that whatever misdeed it may commit it will escape by their blessings. Therefore the violent incidents of intolerance which used to take place in a clandestine manner are now happening in broad daylight. Never in the past had there been such a situation. Only if the central government introspects on this will it be able to provide governance.
In this context, I remember a story I had read somewhere. When a powerful man from a community given to dacoity, extortion and violence defeats a weak king and becomes the ruler, the first thing he does is, instead of showing any concession for the dacoity and violence practised by his community, he suppresses the criminal activities, makes his people civilized citizens and thus becomes responsible for creating a healthy society. It appears as though history, having placed a huge challenge before our present prime minister, is watching him with a little smile on its face.
In sum, this is a time for introspection and soul-searching for everyone. The following words of introspection spoken in his last days of power by General Musharraf can be a lesson to us: âSayeed, Lakhwi were our heroes when they were fighting for the liberation of Kashmir. When religious fundamentalism began to mix with their struggle, it was transformed into terrorism. Now this terrorism is targeting our own people.â
History has been often been saying this loud and clear to us. There is also the saying of a Yogi that even God cannot save those who perpetrate murder, looting, hatred in the name of religion and God! I am returning the awards to remind ourselves of all this in the present situation.