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Indian Literary Uproar – 41 Writers Return Indian Award, Cite Climate of Intolerance

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India Literary Uproar_AP

India’s literary community is disgusted. Dozens of writers say every day brings more evidence of intolerance and bigotry going mainstream — a man lynched allegedly for eating beef, an atheist critic of Hindu idol worship gunned down — all met by a deafening silence from the government.

As of Wednesday, 41 novelists, essayists, playwrights and poets had returned the awards they received from India’s prestigious literary academy to protest what they call a growing climate of intolerance under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

The writers are also angry that India’s Sahitya Akademi, or National Academy of Letters, has said little about the murder of the well-known rationalist Malleshappa Kalburgi, an award-winning Kannada-language writer, gunned down in August for his writings against superstition and false beliefs.

The government has dismissed the writers’ protests, questioning their motives and accusing them of being politically motivated.

“If they say they are unable to write, let them stop writing,” culture minister Mahesh Sharma told reporters.

The writers say they cannot remain mute spectators to numerous incidents of communal violence, attacks on intellectuals and increasing curbs on free speech.

“It’s become a question of an individual’s right to speak, to think, to write, to eat, to dress, to debate,” said Maya Krishna Rao, a playwright and theater actress, who returned her award to the academy this week.

When Modi won a landslide victory in May 2014, many voiced fears of right-wing Hindu nationalism leading to communal violence and religious intolerance. Modi, who had spent years dodging allegations of failing to stop riots in Gujarat state in which around 1,000 Muslims died, assured the nation that he was prime minister for all and would work for everyone.

But the last year has seen a rising crescendo of violence by Hindu fringe groups, trying to force a regressive Hindu nationalism on all, causing fear among India’s minority communities. State governments ruled by the BJP have cracked down on cow slaughter, and even buffalo meat, a key source of protein for poor Muslims and lower caste Hindus, has become scarce. The ban on cow slaughter has given rise to Hindu vigilante groups and mob violence has risen. Last month a Muslim man was lynched in northern India over false rumors that his family had eaten beef for dinner.

On Wednesday, in response to persistent demands that the prime minister break his silence on the lynching, Modi said the mob killing was ” sad and undesirable,” but added that his government could not be blamed as the local administration was responsible for the state.

Last week, well-known writer Nayantara Sahgal returned her academy award, triggering the return of awards by other writers. Sahgal, a niece of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, is known as a fiercely independent political writer who had crossed swords with her cousin and another former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, when she imposed a state of emergency in India in the mid-70s.

Referring to recent violence by Hindu groups, Sahgal said in an interview to The Indian Express newspaper that there was “an attempt to blow up the idea of India and to put in its place a kind of travesty of Hinduism, a kind of monoculture, which has nothing to do with Hinduism.”

Sahgal’s views are echoed across the literary spectrum.

Ghulam Nabi Khayal, a Kashmiri language writer, said earlier governments would try to restore peace in situations of communal conflict.

“But that’s no more the case with the rise of Hindu rightwing BJP,” Khayal said in Srinagar. “For the past one year, the Indian state has become suffocating and extremely intolerant.”
The government was “now brazenly and institutionally backing this communal hatred,” he said, justifying his decision to return his award.

It wasn’t the first time that Hindu conservatives silenced an author or forced a book to be withdrawn.
In January, novelist Perumal Murugan went into hiding and said he had quit writing after his latest book sparked virulent protests.

Hindu nationalists organized weeks of demonstrations demanding that Murugan delete portions of the Tamil-language book because they found them offensive. Instead, the writer stopped writing altogether, his voice muted by the angry protests.

Last year, Penguin India decided to destroy all copies of historian Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism after an outcry. In 2011, the state of Gujarat banned Joseph Lelyveld’s biography on pacifist freedom fighter Mohandas K. Gandhi, after reviews suggested Gandhi had a homosexual relationship.

Writers who voiced support for Sahgal and other authors are facing the wrath of Hindu hard-liners on social media as well.

Internationally renowned novelist Salman Rushdie, who was born in Mumbai, said he had received nearly 10,000 hate messages after he came out in support of the writers. Rushdie said the government’s silence was allowing a new “degree of thuggish violence” in India.

BJP has often tried to distance itself from extremist fringe Hindu groups, but the failure to crack down has emboldened them.

“The prime minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology,” Sahgal said in a letter to the academy while returning her award.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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HP Govt Makes RT-PCR Negative Report Mandatory for People Arriving from Seven States

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entry of tourists in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Tourist movement to Himachal Pradesh is likely to get hit during the peak season as the state government has made it mandatory for people of seven high load states viz. Punjab, Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh need to carry 72-hour prior RT-PCR negative report while visiting the State. The restriction would apply after April 16th.

The decision came after Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, who had been insisting that there would be no restriction on tourist movement to avert economic losses to the tourism industry, held a review meeting amid a massive surge in new cases and deaths.  

The state government has decided to allow tourists to visit the State, but at the same time, hotel owners and tourists should strictly adhere to the SoPs, Chief Minister said.

“The virus was spreading at a fast pace which was the biggest concern. During the last 45 days, the State has reported 10,690 new covid cases. 120 deaths were reported in the State during the last 45 days,” he said.

Over 900 new cases with 12 fatalities were reported on Saturday only.  On Sunday, according to the Health Department’s daily update, the state recorded 512 new cases. 

Pertinent to mention that Maharastra, Delhi and a few other states had been suggesting that a complete lockdown could be imposed if the high rate of resurgence continued in the coming days.

Though the Chief Minister had been maintaining that lockdown would be the last resort, the tone appears to be changing with the worsening of the COVID-19 situation.

Further, laying stress on twin strategy for testing, tracing and treatment with effective surveillance of micro containment zones, Chief Minister said that greater emphasis must also be laid on RT-PCR tests to achieve the target of 70 percent RT-PCR tests.

He said that the State Health Department must also take steps to increase bed capacity to meet out any eventuality.

Meanwhile, no restriction has been put on the devotees visiting various temples in the State during the Navratri festival.

The government said no overcrowding would be allowed in buses and other public transport and private vehicles. Wearing face masks even in vehicles must be enforced strictly.

Chief Minister, who faced widespread criticism over violation of SOPs during the political campaigning for elections to the Municipal Corporations, blamed laxity shown by the people for a sharp resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the State.  

 

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Himachal Pradesh: 662 New Cases & 7 Deaths in 24 Hours, Over 4500 Cases & 55 Deaths in 9 Nine Days

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Himachal Pradesh COVID-19 report

Shimla– The number of new daily COVID-19 cases and deaths in Himachal Pradesh was reported to be 662 and seven respectively on Friday till 7 pm. Kangra district reported the highest 165 new cases and four fatalities, while Sirmaur, Shimla, and Mandi recorded one fatality each.

View details of COVID-19 deaths below:

Daily covid 19 deaths

Source: HP NHM

Solan followed Kangra district with 132 new cases.

Find district-wise details of new cases below:

Daily COVID-19 deaths in himachal pradesh

Source: HP NHM

The COVID-19 case and death tallies have now reached 68173 and 1090 respectively. In April, the state has recorded a huge surge in cases. In the nine days of this month, the state has recorded 4568 new cases and 55 COVID-19 deaths – a rate of more than six deaths per day.

The state government today reviewed the situation in its Cabinet meeting and expressed concern. However, no restrictive measures were taken except extending the closure of all educational institutes till April 21.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur had been maintaining that a lockdown would be the last resort.

Further, the state government today said that to make vaccination people’s movement, 11th to 14th April may be celebrated as ‘Teeka Utsav’.

The government said that the biggest matter of concern was that the virus was spreading at a fast pace. In addition to this, the number of death has also increased rapidly. All the districts have been advised to enhance their capacity be it bed capacity, quarantine capacity and medical equipment capacity etc.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur said that strict action must also be taken against those involved in gross violation of SOPs. He said that the hoteliers must also strictly follow the SOPs so that the State Government may not be forced to take action. He said that laxity shown by the people has resulted in sharp resurgence of Covid cases in the State.

It’s pertinent to mention that during the campaigning for the elections to Municipal Corporations, all parties and their leaders including the Chief Minister violated all SOPs without attracting any action. The parties also faced criticism for ignoring public health for the sake of political interests, thus, setting wrong examples for the public.  

Feature Image: Pexels@polina-tankilevitch

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HP Cabinet Decisions: Educational Institutes Closed Till April 21 Amid COVID-19 Surge, No Decision on Other Restrictions

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HP Cabinet decision on curfew

Shimla-The Himachal Pradesh Cabinet today held a meeting in which it expressed concern over the sharp surge in Covid-19 cases in the State. The Cabinet decided to keep all educational institutions closed till April 21. The institutes would also remain closed for teaching and non-teaching staff except the staff required for exam duties till the 21st of this month.

A decision was taken to fill up 311 posts of Forest Guards in the Forest Department on a contract basis through direct recruitment. These include already approved 113 posts of Forest Guards by the State Cabinet during its meeting held on 9th of March this year.   

The Cabinet decided to fill up 25 posts of Agriculture Development Officers on a contract basis in Agriculture Department through HP Public Service Commission against direct recruitment quota. 

It decided to implement the central sector scheme SVAMITVA in the state for surveying the land parcels in rural inhabited areas using Drone technology. For this, Revenue Department would be designated as the Nodal Department for implementation of the scheme with the support of the Panchayati Raj Department. For this, MoU would be signed with the Survey of India for starting the scheme in the State. A State Steering Committee, State Project Management Unit and District Project Monitoring Unit would also be constituted for effective implementation of the scheme.

The cabinet also gave its nod to extend employment on compassionate ground to the eligible indigent of the deceased employees against available vacant posts of Class-III and Class-IV in relaxation of five percent quota as against the available vacant posts of class-III and Class-IV in DC offices of Shimla, Kinnaur, Solan and Kangra and office of Settlement Officer Kangra Division.  

It also gave its consent that the project for the development of multi-storey parking-cum-shopping complex at U-Block Mandi may be awarded under PPP mode to the highest bidder at an annual concession fee of Rs. 63,63,000 plus GST and all other applicable taxes per annum, as per terms and conditions of RFP. The selected bidder would also pay an upfront premium of Rs. 2 crores to the authority by way of five equal instalments of Rs. 40 lakh each for 24 months starting from the compliance date.

The cabinet also gave its approval for the creation of five posts of different categories for each newly created Nagar Panchayats viz Shahpur, Chirgaon, Nerwa, Nirmand, Anni, Kandaghat and Amb for smooth functioning of these newly created Nagar Panchayats.

Presentations were also made before the Cabinet by Jal Shakti Department on the prevailing drought situation in the State. It was decided to hold a review meeting under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister including all the stakeholder departments for further decisions.

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