Thursday, October 15, 2015

Returning of awards has a tradition!

Returning of awards has a tradition!
Reporters Name | CAMIL PARKHE | Thursday, 15 October 2015 AT 09:08 AM IST
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Camil ParkheblogIndira GandhiOperation Blue StarGolden TempleKhushwant SinghPadma Shrireturning awards

When Indira Gandhi ordered Operation Blue Star to flush out terrorists from the Golden Temple, senior editor and  die-hard loyalist Khushwant Singh returned his Padma Shri to protest against desecration of the Sikh shrine. I was then working in a Panaji-based newspaper and I remember we journalists had a heated discussion that evening on the issue whether the news merited  front page space. Most of us opined that Operation Blue Star was justified and there was no need to glorify Khushwant’s action.

However, the editor’s veto prevailed – he was trained under Khushwant Singh in the ‘Illustrated Weekly of India’ – and the news was carried on page one.

Khushwant Singh perhaps was the first person to return his Padma Shri. In early 1990s, anti-corruption crusader and social activist Anna Hazare had also threatened to return his Padma Shri to protest against the government policies.

Prior to Operation Blue Star, India had witnessed a dark period in the form of Emergency and yet at that time no one returned their awards instituted by the government or by bodies appointed by the government. At that time, Marathi writer and research scholar Durga Bhagwat had given a call to littérateurs not to share dais with the ruling politicians or shun government funds for hosting literary conferences as a sign of protest against the government.

The present spree of veteran writers in the country returning their literary and other laurels to protest against the increasing intolerance and the passive role of the government has once again brought the intelligentsia and the government face to face.

There is indeed a marked difference in the situation prevailing during the Emergency and now. The present government has been duly elected with popular support and it has mandate to rule for its full term.  During the era of pro and anti-Mandal agitations, the atmosphere in the country was charged with people fiercely supporting or opposing the quota rule. So much so that there was a spurt in youngsters attempting self-immolations to protest against the reservation system.

It would be easier to label the writers and others returning their Sahitya Akademi and other laurels as ‘anti-Modi’ or ‘pseudo-secular’ people and skirt the main issue. Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma has almost done that. But the government authorities need to take into consideration that some of these protesting members of intelligentsia may have supported Narendra Modi when he only spoke of ‘development’ in his Lok Sabha poll campaign. The people in the country had then not imagined the scenario they are experiencing now. Considering this, the government needs to seriously consider the concerns being expressed by the dissenting writers and immediately undertake the remedial measures.

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