File photo of Punjab Novelist Dalip Kaur Tiwana
Renowned Punjabi novelist Dalip Kaur Tiwana announced on Tuesday that she would return her Padma Shri award to protest against what she called attacks on freedom of speech in the country and communal violence.
"This is biggest award that was given to me, and by returning this award, I protest ... rising cases of communal attacks, at this rate our country will get destroyed, we are living in the 21st century, this is the time to think and act," she said.
Ms Tiwana, 80, was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, in 2004 for literature and education. She is also a Sahitya Akademi award winner.
She is the latest in a string of writers who have returned their award in protest against what they call growing intolerance in India.
Earlier today, Kannada writer and professor, Rahamat Tarikeri returned his Sahitya Akademi award in protest against the killing of scholar MM Kalburgi and rationalists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
Nayantara Sahgal, the 88-year old niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, was among the first to return the Sahitya Akademi award, questioning the literary body's silence on repeated attacks on writers and rationalists who were raising their voice of dissent.
Six Kannada writers had earlier this month returned their awards, upset over the delay in arrest of killers of Professor Kalburgi, who was shot dead at point blank range by two men at his doorstep in August.
Assamese litterateur and journalist Homen Borgohain today too decided to return his Sahitya Akademi award.
Writing in a vernacular newspaper in Assam, Mr Borgohain said: "There has been a silent protest inside me since the Dadri killing (in Uttar Pradesh). But I failed to find a way to express this.
According to the litterateurs who have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards, free speech and writing is being suppressed in the country. Some of them feel that the recent lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri over rumours that he had beef in his house showed that a communal atmosphere was being set up.