Jaipur, Jan 23 : Veteran poet Ashok Vajpeyi said on Saturday he wouldn't reclaim the award he has returned to Sahitya Akademi citing intolerance in the country.
Vajpayee's assertion comes as writer Nayantara Sahgal refuted the Akademi's claims that she had recclaimed her award. On Thursday, Akademi said that two writers, including Sahgal, have agreed to reclaim their awards.
Speaking to IANS on the sidelines of Jaipur Literature festival, Vajpeyi said that he has no intention of reclaiming the award back as intolerance still prevails in the country.
"I gave up my award against growing intolerance, I don't think it has come down, The suicide of the Dalit student in Hyderabad University is one form of intolerance against Dalits," he said.
He also questioned the Akademi's handling of the issue.
"The Akademi passed a resolution recently saying that they can't accept the awards. It took three months for them to inform us about the policy. This is absurd. They can throw the awards in the dustbin," he said.
Contrary to Akademi claims, Sahgal issued a statement on Friday saying that she hasn't reclaimed her award.
"Let me make it clear: I am not taking back either the award or the cheque, which is now invalid anyway. My protest against the crushing of dissent stands, and I shall continue to speak and act for the freedom of expression," she said in a statement posted on www.indianculturalforum.in.
Vajpeyi has also returned D.Litt degree awarded by Hyderabad University to protest against the suicide of PhD student Rohith Vemula.
"I returned the degree as the university's action had driven a Dalit student to commit suicide. I didn't want a degree awarded by that university," he said.
Vajpeyi also flayed the delayed response of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "PM's response came four days late. He made the issue into the pain of a losing son. The PM never touched the Dalit issue. I appreciate the fact that he has broken his silence. May be the tears are for real," said the poet.
(Preetha Nair can be contacted t firstname.lastname@example.org)