New Delhi: The Sahitya Akademi today claimed some of the writers, including Nayantara Sahgal, have agreed to take back the awards they had returned citing 'growing intolerance' in the country. Ms Sahgal, however, issued a separate statement strongly denying the academy's claim.
"Sahitya Akademi has started sending back the awards to the writers...It has already been sent to Nayantara Sahgal. Another writer Nand Bhardwaj has also agreed to take back the award. It would be sent to other writers as well," Press Trust of India quoted Sahitya Akademi president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari as having said.
"Let me make it clear: I am not taking back either the award or the cheque, which is now invalid anyway. My protest against the crushing of dissent stands, and I shall continue to speak and act for the freedom of expression," Ms Sahgal said in her statement.
Mr Tiwari said the Akademi is also sending a copy of its resolution, which was passed in a meeting in October, to all writers mentioning that there is no provision in its constitution to return the honours.
Ms Sahgal's statement said, "I have just been informed by the Sahitya Akademi that their policy does not allow them to keep returned awards, and that they are returning the cheque I sent them in October 2015. The cheque is now invalid. It has taken the Akademi three months to inform their awardees of such a policy."
Mr Bhardwaj said he was taking the award back. "The Sahitya Academy committee met and they condemned the murder of Kalburgi. They told the writers of the academy that they would stand by us and so, I am satisfied now," he said.
Nearly 40 writers had returned their awards in the past few months to the Sahitya Akademi in the backdrop of Akademi's silence on the murder of fellow writer and rationalist MM Kalburgi as well against the "communal" atmosphere in the country following the Dadri mob murder.
On October 23, Sahitya Akademi passed the resolution appealing to state and central governments to take steps to prevent such incidents and asked authors to take back the awards they had returned to protest against "rising intolerance".