NEW DELHI: India’s top literary body on Friday condemned multiple killings of writers, as protesters surrounded its New Delhi headquarters in a growing row over intolerance that has prompted dozens of authors to hand back awards.
Sahitya Akademi had been criticised by India’s literati for its silence over the murders of writers including secular scholar M M Kalburgi, who was shot dead in August, allegedly by Hindu radicals.
More than 50 authors and artists have returned prestigious awards over what they say is institutional inaction following a series of violent incidents including the lynching over a Muslim over rumours he ate beef.
“The Akademi strongly condemns the killing of writer Kalburgi and appeals to the state and central government to take steps to prevent such incidents in the future,” academy member Krishnaswamy Nachimuthu told reporters.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the academy’s New Delhi office Friday wearing black arm bands and holding pictures of Kalburgi.
“Those who do not subscribe to the agenda of these (extremist) groups will be targeted,” Pankaj Singh, a poet told AFP.
An opposing protest saw supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi chant nationalist slogans as they said that handing back the awards was merely an attempt to defame the government.
“The murder of Kalburgi was a criminal act and we should not politicise it. The trend of returning awards is setting a wrong precedent,” author Shiv Shankar Awasthy told AFP.
Government investigators have said Hindu extremists were also responsible for the killings of writer Govind Pansare and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar.
British author Salman Rushdie has lent his support to protesting writers, saying the literary body’s silence was giving rise to “thuggish violence”.