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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.

Campus Watch

HP University Offers Special Chance to Complete UG Degrees

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HPU Special Chance for UG Degrees

Shimla– Himachal Pradesh University on July 17, 2019, issued a notification offering special chance to complete BA/B.Sc/B.Com and Shashtri degrees to candidates who had enrolled for academic sessions between 2000 – 2012-13 but could not complete their course in the given time period.

Such candidates can avail this special chance by paying a fee of Rs 5000 per year. The examination will be held in March 2020 in accordance with the old syllabus (2012-13).

Similarly, the candidates, who had enrolled for academic sessions between 2000-2014, can avail this chance to complete their BCA/BBA degrees by paying a fee of Rs 20, 000 per year. The examination for these degrees will be held in September 2019 in accordance with the old syllabus (2013-14).

The notification was issued after a few amendments in decisions taken by the HPU Executive Council in its meeting held on May 31, 2019.       

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Misc News/Press Release

HP Cabinet Decisions July 2019: Nod to ‘HP Construction, Demolition Waste Policy and Strategy’ & ‘HP Direct Selling Guidelines, 2019’

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HP Cabinet Decisions July 2019

Shimla– Himachal Pradesh Cabinet meeting was held on July 16, 2019, under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur

The cabinet has recommended the Governor to convene Monsoon session of Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha from August 19 to August 31, 2019, with a total number of 11 sittings.

The Cabinet decided to provide State subsidy of 30 percent of system cost including installation of solar water heating systems of capacities 100 LPD and 200 LPD only to all the domestic consumers in the state.

HP Construction and Demolition Waste Policy and Strategy

It decided to frame Himachal Pradesh State Construction and Demolition Waste Policy and Strategy to avoid, minimise, reuse, recycle and dispose-off construction and demolition waste and avoid and minimize construction waste through design and construction management. This would help in checking the environmental problems that arise owning to open dumping of these wastes. Under the policy, suitable land would be provided for the dumping of construction and demolition waste and further its processing through private operators/agencies or by Urban Local Bodies.

 HP Direct Selling Guidelines, 2019

The Cabinet decided to approve Himachal Pradesh State Direct Selling Guidelines, 2019. The government claimed it would regulate the business of direct selling and multi-level marketing and strengthen the existing regulatory mechanism on direct selling and multi-level marketing. It’ll also prevent fraud and protect the legitimate rights and interests of the consumers, the government said.  

 The Cabinet approved the change of equity in favour of three power projects and also cleared a policy for imposing a penalty in case of change of equity and name without the approval of the government. Project developers would be given a period of 60 days when to get them approved without penalty.

 It accorded approval to

  •  Fill up five posts of Civil Judges in Himachal Pradesh High Court through direct recruitment to ensure speedy disposal of various cases
  • Fill up seven posts of Junior Office Assistant (IT) and 10 posts of Statistical Assistant in Health and Family Welfare Department on contract basis through Himachal Pradesh Staff Selection Commission, Hamirpur.
  • Open Health Sub Centres at Kashimblidhar in Gram Panchayat Kuklah and at Chunani in Gram Panchayat Kashaud in Tehsil Balichowki and in Gram Panchayat Tandi in Chachiot tehsil of Mandi district alongwith creation and filling up of requisite posts.
  •  Open Primary Health Centre at Shilhanu in Mandi district alongwith creation of two posts to man the centre.

 Other Decisions

 Honorarium of Water Guards Hiked

The Cabinet gave its nod to increase the honorarium of water guards from Rs. 2100 to Rs. 3000 and para fitters and para pump operators from Rs. 3000 to Rs. 4000 engaged in Irrigation and Public Health Department. This would benefit about 6220 water guards and about 500 para fitters and para pump operators.

The Cabinet decided to continue the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) for procurement of apple during the current apple season. It also decided to enhance the procurement price under MIS from Rs. 7.50 to Rs. 8 per kg.  As many as 279 procurement centres would be opened in different parts of the state to facilitate the apple growers.

The Cabinet also decided that state-level function would be organized at Shimla on the birth anniversary of first Chief Minister Dr. Y.S Parmar on 4th August 2019.

 It gave its consent to accord District level status to Nalwar Mela Lambathach in Thunag tehsil of Mandi district.

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Solan Building Collapse: Death Toll Rises to 14 Including 13 Jawans and 1 Civilian, Rescue Operation Concluded

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Solan Building Collapse death toll

Solan-The toll of those killed in the collapse of a multi-storey building yesterday in Kumarhatti of Solan district that also housed a restaurant ‘Sehaj Tandoori Dhaba’ has risen to 14 as the rescue teams recovered more bodies. Over 25 people have been rescued and sent to Dharampur hospital for treatment. The deceased included 13 army jawans and one civilian, confirmed the Vivek Chandel, ADM, Solan. The rescue operation has concluded. As per the administration, total 42 people were trapped including 30 Jawans of Assam Rifles and 12 civilians. 

“Since yesterday, 17 Armymen and 11 civilians have been rescued. Three teams of the National Disaster Response Force have taken over the rescue,”

the Deputy Commissioner KC Chaman told PTI.

The building located on the Nahan-Kumarhatti road that housed a restaurant on one of the floors came down around 4 PM on July 14. As it was Sunday, several army personals of Assam Rifles had come to dine at the restaurant. The hotel owner also lived in the building along with his wife and two children. While the children were playing in the neighbourhood, their mother was present in the building. She reportedly died in the collapse, confirmed Additional SP Shiv Kumar Sharma.

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Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on July 15 also visited the spot and ordered a magisterial probe to ascertain the cause of the collapse. An FIR against the owner of the building has also been registered.
Jairam thakur in solan

With this tragedy, questions are being raised over the legality of the construction. The building that was constructed in 2009 had at least four storeys. One of the storeys, as per reports, was added recently.Some reports suggested that complaints were also filed regarding the construction of this building.

Solan Rescue Operation

Currently, weak foundation and non-compliance with existing rules regarding the construction of buildings are considered as causes of the collapse. However, the district administration officials said the actual causes could only be ascertained after a probe.

Over 250 men of National Disaster Relief Force, District Police, and army jawans from nearby cantonment were continuously carrying out rescue work since yesterday. 

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