Award Wapsi, Gujarat: Dalit journalist returns award

"The Gujarat government has failed protect Dalits after the Una incident and as a result incidents of atrocities on Dalits are going up."

In a blow to both the Gujarat and Modi governments, Sunil Jadav, Dalit author and journalist, on Friday, May 26 returned his ‘Mahatma Phule Shreshta Dalit Patrakar Award’ to the Gujarat government, protesting incidents of atrocities on Dalits in the state.

Jadav joined a rally — organised by the Rajkot unit of Dalit organisations — to the office of District Collector Vikrant Pandey. He later returned the award, presented to him in 2011, and also the citation and a cheque worth Rs 25,000, which he had received as part of the award, to the district collector.

In a letter addressed to the CM, Jadav (43) said: “The central and the state governments have failed to protect Dalits. I am extremely pained by the Una atrocities… and the recent killings of and atrocities on Dalits in Saharanpur and Shabbirpur. The Gujarat government has failed protect Dalits after the Una incident and as a result incidents of atrocities on Dalits are going up.”

In 2015 and 2016, writers and filmmakers across the countries had returned National Awards as a stinging protest against the rising intolerance on the streets, the impunity to mo violence as symbolised in the lynching to death of Mohammad Akhlaq in September 2015. Over 40 authors starting with Nayantara Sahgal and 24 film makers had not just returned awards but also made stinging statements against the proto-fascist government.

 The Union government had to accept that that nearly 40 writers returned their awards during the Award Wapsi campaign in 2015. However, this number pertains to only those who had been awarded by the Sahitya Akademi. The overall count is likely to be much higher. Minister of Culture Mahesh Sharma has told the Lok Sabha that these writers returned their awards claiming "that there was an attack on their freedom of expression and the Akademi kept silent on the issue".

Filmmakers Kundan Shah and Saeed Mirza as well as author Arundhati Roy were among two dozen artists who returned their national awards on Thursday, joining a snowballing anti-intolerance campaign with members of the intelligentsia accusing the BJP-led government of stoking religious tensions and muzzling criticism.

The development came against the backdrop of a swirling debate over rising intolerance in the country after the mob lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh over cow-killing rumours and violent attacks on rationalists.

Roy, who won the Booker for “The God of Small Things”, announced in a column for the Indian Express that she was returning her 1989 National Award for Best Screenplay for the film “In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones”, saying she was proud to be part of what artists and intellectuals had started.

“I am very pleased to have found a National Award that I can return, because it allows me to be a part of a political movement by writers, filmmakers and academics who have risen up against ideological viciousness and an assault on our collective IQ that will tear us apart and bury us deep if we do not stand up to it,” she wrote.



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