With Sahitya Akademi award controversy, Nayantara Sahgal exposes another case of selective outrage

She is a recipient of the Sinclair Prize for Fiction, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. She is a prolific writer who has penned down nine novels and eight works of non-fiction. Her work – with mild shades of feminism – challenges the way Indian society treats its women. Recently, Nayantara Sahgal was seen making headlines for returning her Sahitya Akademi award. Most of the headlines read, “Nehru’s niece returns the Sahitya Akademi Award”. Discourses were quickly created to highlight “Nehru’s niece” as the keyword.

Well, Nayantara is an erudite writer with a strong sense of judgement; at least I believe this. She took her cousin Indira Gandhi head-on during the Emergency Era. Not only that, she even resigned from the Sahitya Akademi advisory board of English. Indira didn’t leave her; she reciprocated (as did many during Emergency) with an amplified ire. Indira cancelled Sahgal’s posting to Italy as India’s Ambassador.  It is another thing that when Nayantara revisited her famous 1982 book in 2012, she portrayed her cousin Indira with dignity.

Just two years before Sahgal got her Akademi award, the country’s soil was stained with the blood of Sikhs. 1984 genocide of Sikhs by Congress affiliated goons had left the country traumatised. However, unlike her recent decision, Nayantara didn’t refuse from accepting the Akademi award.

- Advertisement - - Article resumes -

Surprisingly, today she talks of justice. To quote her verbatim

Justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology. It is a matter of sorrow that the Sahitya Akademi remains silent.

The episode forced me to think about the hypocrisy of writers in different political setups. Why did she accept the honour when her nephew Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India roared, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes”(when asked about the 1984 riots)? Didn’t it violate the ethics of the esteemed Mrs. Nayantara Sahgal to accept the award from the same government? (Rajiv Gandhi was the PM when she was conferred the Sahitya Akademi Award). Wasn’t Rajiv’s statement equivalent to State’s approval of the riots? If she calls Dadri Incident Modi’s silence of “reign of terror”, would she also call Rajiv’s statement “an approval of the Riots”?

Sahgal shares her roots with Kashmiri Pandits. In 90s, when Islamists forced Kashmiri Pandits to leave the valley. The Kashmiri Pandits were exposed to violent crimes like rapes, murders and other atrocities. I wonder, why didn’t that move Sahgal enough to protest or break her silence or return her Akademi Award? Was that bloodshed in Kashmir not an attack on the Idea of India? Sahgal could have stood in solidarity with the Kashmiri Pandits to take up their cause; She could have returned her award and sent out a loud message that the secular fabric of the country is under stress.

There has been enough attack on Freedom of Expression/Freedom of Speech in India. It was a good time for the writers to stand united and return their respective awards when Satanic Verses was banned in India. Can anything offend a writer more than a piece of literature being banned?

Sadly, when asked by a journalist, “Why didn’t you return the award during previous attacks/riots?”, she insensitively replied, “This is a different case, now we have a Hindutva Government”.

This makes me very very uncomfortable. Does she mean that she is fine when people are killed, literary works are banned, and rationalists are attacked under the rule of the Congress government, especially with her family members at the helm?

I know that a lot of liberals will accuse me of whataboutery (that’s their defence when someone points out to their double standards), but this isn’t whataboutery, this is stating the obvious.

This isn’t about principles; this is more about who is in power. And if this is what it is about, it is indeed a great fall from intellect to petty politics.

I would like to end this article with a quote by an unknown author:

Many of us believe that wrongs aren’t wrong if it’s done by nice people like ourselves.

(written by @wallflower_ish)

Share and Support:
Support OpIndia by paying for content

Most read articles recently

‘Will not develop areas which did not vote for me’: Rajasthan Congress MLA shortly after winning

Rajender Singh Bidhuri fought and won a close battle against BJP MLA Suresh Dhakad with a margin of 1661 votes.

Here is why BJP lost elections, and of course, it was deliberate

What BJP supporters need to realise is this - no political party ever wants to lose and least of all, a party led by the two most politically aggressive politicians the country has ever seen.

Ranchi: Court summons Rahul Gandhi for his defamatory remarks against Amit Shah

The petitioner submitted that the statement by Rahul Gandhi against Amit Shah had hurt his sentiments and tarnished the image of the party.

India cannot turn into Islamic Nation, only Modi can understand gravity and do needful: Meghalaya HC

There should be uniform law for all Indian citizens, and anybody opposing the Indian laws and constitution cannot be considered as citizens of the country, Meghalaya High Court noted

Priyanka Gandhi part of selection process of Congress CM in the state where her husband faces probe

Priyanka Gandhi's husband, Robert Vadra, was recently summoned for the third time by the Enforcement Directorate in the Bikaner land deal money laundering case after he missed the first two.

BJP’s real woes: Lessons from the electoral semi-finals

The prolonged silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on election results was very telling. The results were clearly unexpected and possibly led to prolonged internal discussions on the future course of action.

Teenage actor who acted in film ‘Haider’, joined Lashkar-e-Taiba, neutralised in encounter

Police confirmed that the two teenagers had joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba, immediately after they went missing on August 31
It is time for Congress and Gandhi Family mukt Bharat

Why Congress-mukt Bharat is still very much in progress

It is time BJP supporters understand the meaning of the term 'Congress-mukt Bharat'.
Image Source: MenXp

Loan defaulter Vijay Mallya congratulates Congress on assembly elections victory

Interestingly, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had initially liked the congratulatory tweet of fugitive Vijay Mallya but later unliked it after it went viral.

As Congress factions create chaos, Rahul Gandhi quotes Tolstoy and Congress tweets ‘game’ links

The Assembly Elections in three states, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh saw Congress successfully push BJP out of power

Latest articles

Connect with us

125,606FansLike
97,731FollowersFollow
6,062SubscribersSubscribe

Don't miss these