New Delhi: The Sahitya Akademi for the first time on Friday said it was "deeply pained" by the murder of noted writer M.M. Kalburgi and other intellectuals and urged the several writers to take back the awards they returned in protest against its silence and growing intolerance.
"The Akademi strongly supports the writers' right to freedom of expression in all languages of India and condemns any atrocities against any writer in the country in the strongest of words," Akademi president Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari said in a statement.
The Akademi, after holding a special meeting of its executive board for over three hours here, also condemned the violence against fellow citizens from different walks of life.
The Akademi, an autonomous body founded in 1954, urged the scores of authors who have returned their awards or have dissociated themselves from the Akademi to reconsider their decision.
The strongly-worded statement followed stringent criticism of the Akademi over the past few weeks, and a protest march on Friday by some 100 litterateurs to its office.
Several well-known writers have returned their Akademi awards and prize money to protest against what they felt was the Akademi's silence after the murder of Kannada writer M.M. Kalburgi in August.
Many writers were also troubled by growing intolerance in the country, including the lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh over rumours that he ate beef.
The Akademi pointed out in its statement that it had held a condolence meeting after Kalburgi's murder by gunmen and had urged the Karnataka chief minister to provide protection to his family.
Tiwari said the Akademi was guided solely by writers and all its decisions including those on the awards were made only by the writers.
"The Akademi has also asked governments at the centre and the states to take immediate action against the culprits and to ensure the security of writers now and in the future," he said.
It asked various communities to put aside the differences of caste, religion and ideology.
Before Kalburgi was killed, gunmen shot dead rationalist and communist Govind Pansare in Kolhapur in Maharashtra in February.
Bengali poet Mandakranta Sen and Kerala writer Sara Joseph were among the first to react but said they won't take back their awards.
"There is no question of taking it back because the situation in the country has not changed. We are protesting against the intolerance, communalism and attacks on writes," Sen said in Kolkata.
In Thiruvananthapuram, Joseph said: "The (Akademi) resolution is just a face-saving measure while the larger issue still stays. Hence my decision stands, and it's not going to change."