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Wreaths of Laurels

The recent tendency of writers and artists returning awards in protest against ideological attacks on thinkers and scholars derives from the tradition of symbolic dissent.

Writers and artists in India are returning their awards, bestowed upon them in recognition of their individual talent, for the public cause. The instances of recent attacks on thinkers, scholars and ordinary men, either for their thoughts or for their food habits, have led them to forgo the awards. Speech and food, beyond doubt, have recently become the target of certain dominant groups, and the symbolic protest of writers is certainly in defence of the freedom of choice—free speech and the choice of one’s own food culture, among others.

Saahitis (littérateurs) are returning different awards, including the central government’s Sahitya Akademi Award, and the number of such protest gestures is increasing day by day. There are debates about the rationale of returning awards. Some say we have to fight within the system and such negative gestures of rejecting recognitions are uncalled for, and these acts will not help us to solve the problem. Those littérateurs who think of their acts to be heroic sacrifice indirectly blame their colleagues and co-awardees for not following suit. How should we look at this phenomenon?

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