NEW DELHI: “Perumal Murugan, the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself. He has no faith in rebirth. As an ordinary teacher, he will live as P Murugan. Leave him alone.”

With this post on Facebook almost year ago, in January 2015, Murugan bowed out of the literary world that had been his passion. Hounded, abused and threatened by right wing groups in Chennai this writer decided to stop writing and announced his “death.”

But now, almost a year later, Murugan has been conferred the ILF Samanvay Bhasha Samman for his novel Madhorubhagan ‘One Part Woman’ ,the same work that had the Sangh right wingers agitating on the streets, and threatening him with dire consequences. However, Murugan did not receive the award personally, writing a letter instead signed P Murugan stating that he was now a shadow of the writer Perumal Murugan.

His publisher Kannan Sundaram received the award for him saying, “If under normal circumstances, he had asked me to receive an award on his behalf, I would have been honoured. Today, while it is definitely an honour, but it is also a painful reminder.”

Writers have now come together in his support issuing a statement saying “We cannot stand by when a writer is forced, as Murugan puts it, to “act as the shadow” of himself.”

The statement reads:

The list of curbs, threats and intimidation is growing day by day. Not only is the creative and intellectual life of the country in danger, but also the constitutional right of citizens to think, speak, write as they wish, as long as they are within the bounds of the law.

The case of Perumal Murugan is an especially painful one. The writer is alive, but he was hounded into declaring in January 2015 that “Perumal Murugan the writer is dead.” Murugan is to be awarded the fourth ILF Samanvay Bhasha Samman 2015 in Delhi during the festival between November 28 and 30. Murugan will not come to Delhi to receive his ward. Or he cannot, because of the possibility that the cycle of intimidation will begin again.

Responding to the award announcement Perumal Murugan made this statement: “The Samanvay Award for Madhorubhagan is a modern recognition given to Tamil, a classical language with a long and unbroken literary tradition. This recognition, bestowed on my language at an unfortunate moment, will, I hope, be a shining gem rather than an unsightly wart. I wholeheartedly thank everyone who made this possible. Constrained by force of circumstance to act as the shadow of Perumal Murugan, I feel honoured by this award. I dedicate the Samanvay Award to the lotus feet of the almighty lord Madhorubhagan.

We cannot stand by when a writer is forced, as Murugan puts it, to “act as the shadow” of himself. We call on all citizens of conscience to join us in demanding that Murugan the writer be restored to us, and to himself.

(In alphabetical order)

A.R. Venkatachalapathy
Githa Hariharan
Kannan Sundaram
Kiran Nagarkar
Krishna Sobti
K. Satchidanandan
Nayantara Sahgal
Romila Thapar
Shashi Deshpande
Uday Prakash