Perhaps the only litterateur in Punjab to have received both, the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award Atmajit stands like a colossus in the Punjab art world. A playwright with outstanding achievements Atmajit made no bones in returning his coveted Sahitya Akademi Award as a part of the award “wapsi” movement that stormed the nation in 2015. Having written more than a score of Punjabi plays with international acclaim Atmajit has been under threat from the so-called Right-wing activists. His fault? In a series of public addresses in Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat and Maharashtra he sought to blast the shade of nationalism that the RSS and the BJP had been trying to brandish around. In a conversation with DAILYPOST, he shares his fears and convictions.AJAY BHARDWAJ
Q : When did you first hear about the threat meted out to you?
A : I was relaxing at home when some intelligence officials walked in to tell me that my life was endangered. They asked me if anybody had been trying to intimidate me or threaten me., and warned me in the same breath to
be on the guards.
Q: How did you take it?
A: For about an hour I was quite disturbed, but soo I regained my composure and started feeling happy about the fact the points I had been making have had the desired effect of rattling some people. It means my ideas were creating ripples. So the entire fear was gone and a new conviction came about.
Q: What exactly had you said that supposedly invited a threat from the forces that be?
A: My first address was in Dandi (Gujarat). It was under the auspices of the Dakshinayan Abhiyan led by an international linguist Ganesh Devy who is primarily based in Karnataka. And the second address was in Dharwad (Karnataka) where Kalaburgi was murdered. My underlining theme was that we are a multiculture civilisation and we should respect that. I very often cited an instance of Guru Granth Sabib in which hymns of all religions and castes were incorporated. Because that was the way our civilisation was. Similarly, when the foundation stone for Golden temple was laid by Mian Mir, a Muslim, it was a reflection of social ethos that prevailed. In my addresses elsewhere I have underlined the role of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha in instigating the carving out of Pakistan. It was in 1937 after the Hindu Mahasabha passed a resolution in favour of a Hindustan of Hindus that the Muslims started harping on the idea of having a nation to themselves.Q: So, you think the coming of the BJP in power has been a triggering factor in creating a social divide?
A: Well, in some ways one can say that this divide became more violently pronounced after the BJP-led government came to power in the Centre. M o r e o v e r , it is the RSS’s agenda eflected through, perhaps, MS Golwalkar’s book, the Bunch of Thoughts, which clearly said that the RSS hated the Sikhs, the Muslims, Buddhists and Christians which found reflection in the social life and was disturbing for any creative person.
Q:How can this conflict be resolved?
A: We must appreciate the cultural pluralism that has obtained in our history and is part of us. We do not need to learn nationalism from the RSS or to be taught by it. In one of my plays, “Kamloops Dian Machhiayan”, I have harped on Salman fish, which starts its journey to the sea, but when it realises on the way that its end is nearby it swims back against the current and lays its eggs before dying It is like that. If a threat comes, the nature always helps.
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