Famous Hindi poet Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, who was the president of the Sahitya Akademi from 2013 to 2018, has recently claimed that the ‘Award-wapsi’ movement of 2015 by Sahitya Academi Award winners was politically motivated and not spontaneous. According to a report in The Economic Times, Tiwari has stated that he has evidence to support the claim.
Tiwari has reportedly claimed that the whole movement was orchestrated by Marxist writers and poet Ashok Vajpai to create controversy and defame the Modi government. More than 50 writers and Sahitya Academy Award winners had returned their awards in what they claimed as a ‘protest against growing intolerance’.
Tiwari has reportedly published his claims in a 10-page article in the literary magazine ‘Dastavez’. Tiwari is the founder-editor of the magazine which is published from Gorakhpur. The article, titled ‘The truth of Award wapsi and the hypocrisy behind it’ reportedly claims that the campaign was motivated by mainly 3 types of writers, the ones who had a personal hatred against PM Modi for various reasons, the ones whose friends in politics wanted to defame the government and around 25 writers who merely wanted publicity for themselves. He states that he has written the article to bring out the real faces of the writers who declared themselves ‘champions of free speech’.
Tiwari has reportedly stated that he has evidence that shows the five writers, including Vajpai, led the campaign in an organised manner and it was not spontaneous. He has reportedly added that many of those writers were holding anti-Modi events even before PM Modi came to power. Vajpai, he added, led the campaign for his personal hatred against PM Modi, the Sahitya Academy and Vishwanath Tiwari himself. In the article, Tiwari has reportedly published the letters and text messages he had received from writers during the campaign, which mention that they were being pressurised by their peers to return their awards.
He said that in November that year, many of the Award wapsi writers were seen celebrating the victory of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s party over the BJP in a Lucknow literary event. Mentioning writer Virendra Singh, Tiwari reportedly stated that he ironically did not return the award received from the UP state government after the Dadri incident. He has stated it is ironical that many writers who had no problems in receiving awards during the emergency were claiming ‘raising intolerance’ in 2015. He has also mentioned that leftist inclined writers had tried to create a friction between the academy and the writers.
Claiming that the same group of writers had met at the house of JD(U) leader KC Tyagi in July 2016. He further added that in claiming ‘rising intolerance’ the writers were expressing their own mental block against the Modi government and it was rather their own intolerance to the public mandate which was striking.
Tiwari has also alleged that Vajpai had a score to settle with the academy as it had refused to associate with his ‘Raza’ foundation for an event. Adding that Vajpai had even tried to get Tiwari to resign from the academy and he repeatedly had tried to hide the fact that the Sahitya Academy had organised a huge prayer meeting in Bengaluru after the murder of Kalgurgi. He has added that some writers were opposed to the idea of organising an event in Delhi. Tiwari has also reportedly written that in the Hindi literature, not to be a Marxist is to invite isolation. He condemned that the campaign of Award wapsi was solely targeted towards the Bihar assembly elections and it played around with the dignity and honour of an institution like the Sahitya Academy.
It is notable here that the ‘Award wapsi’ campaign was started after the murder of Kannada writer Kalburgi and many writers, eventually, cinema awardees too had made a show of returning their national awards in protest of the ‘rising intolerance’ in the country under the BJP government. Numerous authors and artists had slammed the campaign calling it politically motivated and attention seeking.