“Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”
― Albert Einstein
In the last few days, a surging tide of protestors has hit the coast of complacent India. The whimsical political class that seems to bead the nation in one colour, skewed definition and restrictive barriers was jolted from their deep slumber by the ‘conscience keepers’ of the society.
They choose personal integrity over a façade of glory in the public eye and the rapid return of titles by eminent poets, historians, critics, litterateurs and novelists has engulfed the nation in a debate, yet again.
For all those who find their protests vested, useless and worse political party-motivated. These are poets who have heard the caged birds sing, who are still keeping alive the tradition of regional literatures in the face of the onslaught of English and most importantly have always made us proud to showcase to the world the complex tapestry of culture that we boast of.
The autonomy of Sahitya Akademi becomes questionable in the face of silence maintained by them even after the upheaval. As Nayantra Sehgal puts it, the “right to dissent” seems to be under “vicious assault” and the immobility of the shackled ‘Akademi’ is adding fuel to the pent up anger amongst the writers. The institution failed to live up to the expectations of protecting the literary freedom. The sheer arrogance and dismissive attitude with which the executive has taken up the issue shows the inkling of times to come. These writers have written exemplary masterpieces which are brutal, honest and widely appreciated by many with no fear of anyone castrating their pen.
The dignity of these men and women is not questionable and those who claim this to be politically motivated need a double fact check. In their acclaimed works, Ashok Vajpeyi talks of living freely, Madakranta Sen sensitively about the feminine experiences, Surjit Patar of his angst and longing to the native homeland, Aravind Malagatti speaks and defiantly opines against political imprisonment of ideas. K.Satchidanandan unfurls the hysteric, the ‘mad’, the writer with no caste, no religion and are restlessly moving around trying to save the world with a gamut of ideas and finding peace, solace through their cathartic writings.
Mock them as much as you want, question their motives, wipe them off your histories, blacken their faces but know that they will still be remembered in their words, in their rhythm, in the contours of their letters as the ones who never gave up hope.