Yielding to unrelenting protests by writers, the Sahitya Akademi on Friday strongly condemned the killing of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and others while urging litterateurs to take back awards they have returned even as protests and counter protests were held outside its headquarters here.

Breaking its silence, the Akademi took to pacifying the authors who accused it of not speaking out against the killings of writers and rationalists besides on incidents like Dadri lynching and ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni.

At an emergency board meet to discuss recent developments, the Akademi expressed solidarity with the writers urging those authors who had returned awards conferred by it to take them back and appealed to those who have stepped down from various Akademi posts to take back their resignations.

The Akademi is "deeply pained and strongly condemns the murder of Prof MM Kalburgi and the other intellectuals and thinkers. As the only autonomous institution of Indian literature in all its diversities, the Akademi firmly supports the writers’ right to freedom of expression in all the languages of India and condemns any atrocity against any writer anywhere in the country," it said in a resolution.

The Akademi also asked the state and Central governments to take immediate action to bring the culprits to book and ensure the security of writers now and in future.

"The Akademi appeals to state and central government to take steps to prevent such incidents in the future", Krishnaswamy Nachimuthu, an executive committee board member from Tamil Nadu said emerging from the meet.

The meet was attended by 20 out of 24 executive council members. "All writers stand together in their decision to condemn the killings," Nachimuthu said.
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Sporting black gags and arm bands, several writers and their supporters held a solidarity march here ahead of the meeting and submitted a memorandum to the Akademi chair.

"We are witnessing a rise in intolerance against writers and artists… like it happened at Film Institute in Pune, awards are being returned… some claimed it is "manufactured". What sort of manufacturing? where is such factory where writers are manufactured? We have nothing to throw at the establishment and the Akademi except our awards," poet Keki N Daruwalla said.

English writer Gita Hariharan said, "It is a sad day that writers and artists have to walk with so much police to an institution which supposedly belongs to us. The protest is not just against to what happened to Kalburgi but against a series of incidents that are now hounding writers." 

Another group had held a counter protest, alleging that the move by authors to return awards was "motivated by their vested interests" and the literary body should not buckle under pressure.

The protest was led by JANMAT, with participation by ABVP activists also submitted a memorandum to the Akademi, questioning the motive of the writers.