A day after the Sahitya Akademi issued a statement that they were sending back the awards that writers had returned in protest against the body’s silence on murders of writers, a number of them have said that they will not go back on their earlier stance. In response to the Sahitya Akademi’s claim that Nayantara Sahgal was one of the writers who had already confirmed that they were taking back the award, Sahgal issued a statement on the Indian Writers Forum website, denying this. “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," she stated.

At the Jaipur Literature Festival on Saturday, Hindi poet Uday Prakash, who was the first person to return his Sahitya Akademi award in September, just days after the murder of Kannada rationalist M.M Kalburgi, spoke to Mint about his next step. "Now they have thrown the ball in our court. We have to decide what to do with the award that we had already returned. My argument is—I don’t know if any others will agree with me—when I returned it, it was related to something that had happened in the recent past. The award included some money, 1 lakh, which is not a small money for a freelancer like me. It’s been three months since I issued the cheque, it is now invalid. Now the money still remains in my account. What should I do with it?"

Prakash declared that he would not use the money for himself. “I write in Hindi, and Hindi has become a vehicle of obscurity and caste hegemony. I thought the Adi Kavi, the first poet of Hindi, was Amir Khusrau. He was Sufi, and Sufism is something I love a lot. It’s open to all castes and religions, it is deeply humane. So I am going to give that money for the revival of the great Sufi poet," he said.

Prakash, who has spoken earlier of living in a climate of fear after his decision to return the award, said, “We were all threatened. Look at my Facebook page, lots of arrogant, obscene, filthy words are there. But I am getting the support of many writers, I am confident now, I feel connected to many people who think like me. So I have little strength now."

Malayalam poet K. Satchidanandan, who was also at the literature festival, too said he would not go back on the stand he had taken then in resigning from all his posts at the Akademi. “It’s now a larger movement," he said, a movement that is no longer to do with the Sahitya Akademi alone. Going back, he said, would amount to a betrayal of the historians, scientists and filmmakers who had shown solidarity with the writers them on the larger issue of plurality, and freedom of expression.

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