These days the left leaning writers have started a protest against the Sahitya Academy in specific and the government in general. In this writers’ protest, more than 40 writers have returned their awards or relinquished their positions. Their protest is against the “terrorism” of the extremist right wingers and the “subtle” support of the State machinery to the acts of “terrorism” reflected in the killings of the writers, minorities and liberalism in general. The state machinery is not limited to politicians/ministers but extends to the Bureaucracy and the Police. The state of affairs in India has indeed reached a seriously totalitarian situation. The State has started interfering in the lives of the people to the extent of even deciding the food the people eat and the clothes the people wear. Ironically, most of the new laws that are being made by the present BJP run states are extensions of the laws framed under the previous governments, esp. the Congress. No wonder the Congressmen like Shashi Tharoor have already started calling the protest of the writers as misdirected: he thinks the writer should protest without returning their awards, which define their identities. This is what has interested me in the current protest of the writers, and that’s what I am going to discuss in the rest of this post.
I have always believed that writers, artists, journalists, intellectuals, etc, have no business accepting awards from the State or even the corporate. The State has monopoly of violence, and it inflicts most of the violence on its common citizens for the protection of the elites; i.e., the corporate; the politicians; the senior Bureacracy and the Judiciary; the State protected artists, intellectuals, writers, journalists, etc; and the HNIs. In fact, in the current paradigm, one category of elites, i.e. the corporate, have gained extraordinary control over the running of the State and have gained status higher than even that of the politicians; in other words, the corporate are the new State. However, at the same time, the left leaning intellectuals and artists have been side lined to the extent that the political goons have actually started murdering the well-recognized award winning faces amongst them, which is also a message to the unrecognized faces to shed their leftist orientation and adopt “neo-liberal” orientation like the new generation writers: Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi, Ravinder Singh, Preeti Shenoy, Anuja Chauhan, etc, who haven’t won any awards but have made lots of money through their marketing acumen — most of them are also ex-MBAs. However, most of the award winning faces were recognized in the previous dispensation, which comprised an amalgamation of the left leaning Congressmen and the Leftists, and money was never any criterion. So, obviously the left leaning writers have lost favour with the new BJP government and are getting replaced by the “neo-liberal” faces. Sahitya Academy can well remain in business by starting to award these new-age writers, but then there are even more interesting expressions in Bollywood. The left leaning writers and intellectuals are in majority, and their mass protest has indeed led to an existential crisis for Sahitya Academy. I have written another satire in which the imminent status of Sahitya Academy, though exaggerated, is rightly projected.
Indeed I feel whatever is happening is correct. The writers indeed need to be independent from the influence of the State and other powers. They need to take independent stands on societal issues and communicate it in the language and style best understood by the people. Their role is that of the illuminators, whether directly through non-fiction and journalism or subtly through fiction. They are indeed the independent political voices against the politicians and the State. They ought to live their lives riding bicycles albeit on fire, eating simple food albeit while sharing it with others, and reflecting upon the society albeit without getting influenced. They need to assist the activists or take up the role of activists themselves when there is a vacuum. They need to resist and expose “terrorism” whether of the State or otherwise. So, obviously, they just can’t be the instrumentalities of the State, which extends to not receiving any award from the State. The writers who are protesting by returning their awards are themselves culpable by having accepted them at the first place. These returns, only if sincere, are harbinger of good times to come. If such influential and intelligent people can re-organise themselves into an anarchic force fighting against all odds in the society, it will give a ray of hope to the not so very gifted people, but who nevertheless want to live their lives sans conservatism. The time has indeed come for the illuminators of the society to amalgamate their islands into a continent of hope, providing shelters to those who deserve it.
Disclaimer: The writer is an ex-MBA, but has spent last ten years of his life studying and practicing law and is neither a “neo-liberal” nor a leftist.