To speak or not to speak. That was the choice before the Executive Board of the Sahitya Akademi which met on Friday under the watchful eyes of two competing groups of writers, the Progressive vs. the Nationalist writers and thinkers.
While the Progressives wearing black-bands and supported by political parties wanted the Akademi to come out with a strong resolution against the climate of distrust and rising intolerance, the Joint Action Group of Nationalist Minded Artists and Thinkers (JANMAT) chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai were there to ensure that the Akademi maintained its silence and distance from politics.
Under pressure from both, at the end of a four-hour meeting which began at 10 a.m., the Akademi officially broke its silence and passed a resolution to strongly condemn the killing of professor M.M. Kalburgi, thinkers and intellectuals and violence against fellow citizens in the country.
Speaking to The Hindu, president of the Akademi, Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari said, “The emergency meeting was called after writers accused the Akademi of keeping quiet and writers returned their awards. But today we unanimously agreed to pass a resolution condemning not only the violence against writers but atrocities against citizens of the country.”
Mr. Tiwari said, “I hope my fellow Sahitya Awardees will reconsider their decision to return their awards and those who have resigned from the council will join the Akademi again.”
He clarified that Akademi members from Karnataka to Jammu and Kashmir had raised the issue of the murder of Kalburgi and it was incorrect to say that members had kept quiet. “Our resolution clarifies that within an hour of the murder of Kalburgi, writers from the Kannada Advisory Board had condemned the killing at a public meeting.”