Punjabi writer Dalip Kaur Tiwana announced on Tuesday that she was returning her Padma Shri, joining a long list of novelists and poets renouncing their awards over perceived threat to free speech.
In a brief statement, Tiwana said, “In this land of Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev, the atrocities committed on the Sikhs in 1984 and on the Muslims recurrently because of communalism are an utter disgrace to our state and society.
“And to kill those who stand for truth and justice put us to shame in the eyes of the world and God. In protest, therefore, I return the Padma Shri award,” she added.
Tiwana is the first to renounce a Padma award, while more than 20 writers in the country, starting with Nayantara Sahgal, have returned their Sahitya Akademi awards protesting the lynching of a man in Uttar Pradesh’s Bisada and for the murder of rationalists in Maharashtra and Karnataka .
In her letter, 80-year-old Tiwana expressed solidarity with other writers “who are protesting against the increasing communalisation of our society and polity”.
A life fellow and writer-in-residence at Punjabi University, Tiwana is acknowledged as the foremost novelist and short-story writer in contemporary Punjabi literature. She was given the Akademi award in 1971 for her novel ‘Eho hamara jivana’(This our life), making her one of the youngest authors to get the prestigious award. She was also honoured with the Shiromani Sahitkar Award by the state’s languages department in 1987.
In Punjab, as many as seven writers and poets -- Surjit Patar, Jaswinder Singh, Baldev Singh Sadaknama Darshan Bhuttar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Gurbachan Bhullar and Canada-based Waryam Sandhu -- have given up their awards.