The Sahitya Akademi Award - every year since its inception in 1954 - is given to the most outstanding books of literary merit published in any of the major Indian languages recognized by the Akademy.
The award amount, which was Rs.5,000 since inception, had been enhanced to Rs.10,000 from 1983, Rs.25,000 from 1988, Rs.40,000 from 2001, Rs.50,000 from 2003 and is now Rs.1,00,000 from 2009. The first Awards were given in 1955.
The returning of awards have started since Hindi writer Uday Parkash first did so last month over the killing of Kalburgi - was an Indian scholar of Vachana Sahitya and academic who served as the vice-chancellor of Kannada University in Hampi and governents' silence over the killings of innocent persons.
Dr. Malleshappa Madivalappa Kalburgi, 78, renowned Kannada writer, research scholar and rationalist has entered the history books as the first litterateur from Karnataka to be shot dead allegedly for his views on idol worship and Hindu rituals. None of the group or persons have claimed responsibility for shooting Dr Kalburgi at point blank range at his home.
Born in Vijayapura (Bijapur) district in 1938, Dr Kalburgi studied Kannada literature and taught at the Department of Kannada, Karnatak University, Dharwad, one of the oldest universities in Karnataka. He was also the vice-chancellor of the Kannada University, Hampi, Ballari (Bellary) district. He had won several important awards, including those from Central Sahitya Academy, Karnataka Sahitya Academy, Pampa Award, Nadoja Award and Nrupathunga Award.
In the latest string of protest of returning of awards, so far 15 writers have returned their awards to the Akademi. While 9 writers returned their Sahitya Akademi awards in protest over the silence on the recent killing of a man in Dadri over rumours of cow slaughter and murder of author M M Kalburgi allegedly for his rationalist views.
Those who returned their awards included Hindi poets Mangalesh Dabral and Rajesh Joshi; Vadodara-based Ganesh Devy; Konkani writer N Shivdas; Kannada writer Kum Veerabhadrappa; and Gurbachan Singh Bhullar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh and Waryam Singh Sandhu from Punjab.
Frankly speaking, the returning of award is seen as a threat to our democracy, secularism and freedom and the continuance returning of awards has raised few questions which has to be answered by the writers' itself - Is returning awards a solution to the problem? Are there not other ways to protest instead of returning awards to Sahitya Akademi? What are other ways?
Whatever may be reasons behind returning the awards conferred on the writers over rising cases of intolerance and communal atmosphere in the country, the returning of award is not at all the correct manner to protest. The writers' before release of their publication to the public, should concentrate on the contents of the write-up, leaving no chance of hurting the sentiments of any class and giving an opportunity to anyone to pin-point even a single word over his text.
Returning awards by the writers, as a protest on account increasing assaults on the freedom of writers is not the solution - Rather fighting with the "Pen" is!