Born in Shahdol in Madhya Pradesh, Hindi writer Uday Prakash is best known for his short stories Peeli Chhatri Waali Ladki and Mohandas, the latter a disturbing tale of a Dalit boy who sets off to rediscover his stolen identity. Later made into a film, Mohandas fetched Prakash the Sahitya Akademi Award for Hindi in 2010. Through his writings, Prakash has explored themes of displacement and alienation, and given voice to the concerns of the marginalised. Last year, Prakash was the first of many artistes to return his Akademi Award over the killing of fellow recipient, Kannada litterateur MM Kalburgi. He was objecting to the literary body’s silence over the assaults on writers, and sparked a national debate over intolerance and nationalism.
You returned your Sahitya Akademi Award a year ago in protest over the killing of M M Kalburgi. How do you look back on that decision?
Honestly, it was fear that prompted my decision. All these killings were done by fanatics, by people of a particular mindset. Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and Kalburgi — they were all people like me, elderly. They were shot at home or while they were out on a walk. I had met Kalburgi twice. I knew Dabholkar too. These people were killed in cold blood and what surprised me was that there was no uproar over their deaths. The institution that had awarded Kalburgi did not even hold a condolence meeting for him. Read more