Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Cuttack, Nov 22:
Amongst the first from Odisha to join the long list of laureates who returned their awards in protest of rising intolerance in the country, acclaimed poet Jayanta Mahapatra returned the Padma Shri award conferred on him in 2009.
“I would feel ethically impugned if I did not raise my voice in dissent against the growing moral asymmetry that’s blatantly visible in our country. It’s a small, insignificant voice, true, but mine, of an aging man of 88 years, and in no way attempts to solve the issue I’ve stated here, an intrusion into the basic freedoms of a citizen of India,” wrote the 88 year old poet in his letter addressed to President Pranab Mukherjee.
“In accordance with my beliefs, I would, as a mark of protest, humbly wish to return the civilian honour of “Padma Shri” which had been bestowed upon me by the President of India in 2009. I express my desire to return the award. My act should not be considered as any kind of dishonor to the country,” he added.
Explaining his stand further, Mahapatra claimed it to be a personal choice and clarified that it is in no way connected to Sahitya Akademi.
“It is a personal decision. I thought for a long time but some incidents hurt me so much and I decided to return the award. Every day something is coming out in the paper. You cannot eat this or you cannot eat that. This hurt me. I have nothing to do with those who returned Sahitya Akademi awards. I did not even speak to them. It’s a small voice from an 88-year-old man and may not solve the problem,” Mahapatra told a leading newspaper today.
It may be noted here that even though dozens of laureates returned their awards across the country, most litterateurs from Odisha had spoken up against it as we reported here.
The author of 27 books of poems, of which seven are in Odia and the rest in English, Jayanta Mahapatra was the first poet to win the Sahitya Akademi award for English poetry. He has many international awards like the the Jacob Glatstein Memorial Award and the Cultural Award Visitor from Australia to his credit as well. Moreover, he has penned books of prose like Green Gardner and Door of Paper: Essay and Memoirs. His poems like Indian summer and Hunger are termed classics in modern Indian English literature. He is one of the eminent English poets in the country.