Dadri Closer to Khayal, Returns Sahitya Akademi Award

Bilal Handoo

SRINAGAR

GN Khayal with his Sahitya Akademi Award.
GN Khayal with his Sahitya Akademi Award.

Dadri lynching incident in which a Muslim was lynched to death for cooking beef, later proved mutton, has impacted Kashmiri journalist, poet and author, Ghulam Nabi Khayal. He has returned his Sahitya Akademi award thus joining a plethora of top liberal authors in mainland who in protest against increased radicalization, scared the minorities, have returned their honours.

“Yes, I have decided to return this award in protest against the growing sense of unease in minorities across India under Modi regime,” Khayal told Kashmir Life.

Khayal made up his mind to return the award hours after three Punjabi writers and three other eminent authors Sunday announced they will return their Sahitya Akademi awards to protest against the government’s “onslaught on freedom of expression”.

Established in 1954, Sahitya Akademi Award is a literary honour in India which Sahitya Akademi – India’s National Academy of Letters, annually confers on writers of the most outstanding books of literary merit published in any of the major Indian languages. The award comprises a copper plaque and a cash prize of Rs 100,000.

Asked if the overwhelming situation of human rights in Kashmir ever made him to think of returning the award, Khayal said: “Atrocities in Kashmir are debatable.”

“I reported the worst human rights violations committed in Kashmir amid death threat and attacks,” Khayal said. “Today, those reports have taken a shape of book, Kashmir Bleeds, being read widely.” He said his pen was at service of Kashmir when the death was dancing over it during nineties.

Khayal is one among forty Sahitya Akademi awardees in Kashmiri language. “I cannot witness such worst situation as a mute spectator,” he said, pointing to Dadri lynching.

Incidentally, Khayal announced returning award the day Kashmir trade body announced a protest strike against an incident in which a Kashmir bound truck was consigned to flames in Udhampur. Of the three inmates in the truck, two survived with burn injuries were airlifted by government to AIIMS for specialized treatment.

Worth mentioning here, Kashmir’s celebrated short story writer, Akhtar Mohiuddin was first to return his Sahitya Akademi award in 1984 in protest to Muhammad Maqbool Bhat’s hanging in Delhi’s Tihar jail. The award was given to him in 1958 for his short stories, titled Sat Sangar.

Later, in early 1990s, Akhtar returned his Padma Shri award — the fourth highest civilian award in India. Bestowed on him in 1968, Akhtar returned the award in protest to Gaw Kadal Massacre — described as “the worst massacre in Kashmiri history”. The massacre took place on January 20, 1990 in which nearly 50 civilians were killed.

As the Sahitya Akademi award issue is trending on social media, many netizens have started questioning the decision saying, “Dadri is condemnable, so are killings of innocent Kashmiris.”

But Khayal, who was an active reporter in 1990s, defended his decision. “Atrocities were happening from all sides during 1990s,” he said. “And the best I could do was to document it earnestly, which I did.”

The award that Khayal announced he returned was given to him in 1975 for his essays titled Gaashir Munar.

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