In the past few months, the Indian literary firmament has been exercising itself more about awards than about creativity. Krishna Sobti, an eminent Punjabi writer, refused to be considered for the 2009 Padma awards; Janaki Vallabh Shashtri, a Hindi poet, expressed resentment that a mere Padma Shri—and so late in life—does not adequately recognise his contribution to literature; and now, three left-leaning organisations of Hindi writers—the Pragatisheel Lekhak Sangh, the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, and Jan Sanskriti Manch—are protesting against the Sahitya Akademi collaborating with Samsung Electronics, a Korean MNC, to institute the Tagore Literature Awards.
The Akademi’s first Tagore awards, for 2009, were given away on January 25 by South Korea’s first lady, Kim Yoon-ok, to writers in eight Indian languages—Bengali, Bodo, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Punjabi and Telugu. The protest, as Sahmat, a leftist cultural organisation, said in a statement, was not about those who were awarded, but against the collaboration of a public-funded autonomous institution like the Akademi with a profit-driven business house. This association, Sahmat said, was “demeaning” for the Indian awardees as well as for Rabindranath Tagore, after whom the award is named. The protesters also complained that the selection process for the award was opaque. That there was no furore in the literary establishments of the other seven languages testifies to the ideological schisms with which the Hindi literary world is riven.
Full report here Outlook