Urdu Poet Munawwar Rana was one of the eminent persons to have returned to Sahitya Akademi award in protest against the growing intolerance reflected in the assassinations of scholars, rationalists and the Dadri lynching over beef.

He received a call from the Prime Minister’s office and in an interview to Sauabh Shukla in Lucknow he indicates a change of mind

Q. You got a call from the Prime Minister’s Office. What did they say and what did you tell them?

Rana: I got a call from an officer of the PMO, yesterday, when I was in Gwalior for a Mushaira. I could not pick the call at that moment. Later, when I checked my phone I found that there was a text message from the concerned officer of the PMO requesting me to give him a call back immediately.

After I called him, the officer said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to meet me on October 21 as he was free by 1630 hours, but I had to request him to postpone the meeting as I do not want to meet Mr Modi alone.

I asked the officer to call other writer and poets and mention my name at the end of list.The officer asked me to suggest few other names but I refused to suggest it as I found it wrong and said the officer should do that work on his own.

Q : Will you go, even if the other writers do not to meet the Prime Minister?

Rana: Yes, I will definitely go to meet Mr Modi and even request him for eating his favorite Gujarati dhokla. Being a patriotic Indian, I will go to salute(salaam) the person sitting at the prime post.

Q. Will that not amount to breaking the unity shown by the writers till now?

Rana: No, this will not at all amount to breaking the unity shown till now, as there may be a difference in our thinking but we all are concerned about the rising intolerance and we want the authorities to work out a solution. If we all have the same thoughts then there will be no difference in our creativity and a computer copy.

(“Hamare beech matbhed ho sakta hai lekin main bhed kabhi nahi agar ham sab ek jaisa sochna aur likhna shuru kar denge to hamari shayri aur computer copy me koi fark nahi bachega”)

Q: Why did you return the reward in the first place, if you were going to accept the PMO invite now?

Rana: See, I am not going to attend any buffet at the Prime Minister Office or to recite my poems(nazm). I have returned my award in protest against the growing intolerance in the country.

I have accepted the invitation because I want to see brotherhood in India and as a true patriotic I want to see every person as a brother or sister, I do not want to see people as Hindus and Muslims.

A few days back, I went to Pakistan to meet my relatives and someone asked me a question as to how Muslim lives in India. I responded that over 80 crore Hindus of ‘Hindustan’ are there to protect me.

Q: What makes you believe that the government is serious?

Rana: The way PMO was concerned to meet me makes an obvious point that the government was very serious to end the issue as soon as possible. We should not doubt the intentions of the government and take the matter very seriously.

Q: Do you want the cash amount of the Sahitya Akademi Award be hiked?

Rana: Why not, we poets are like sufi, saints, kalander and we are also the kings of our world. We do not go to Sahitya Akademi begging for the awards and I strongly believe that the amount should be adequate to get one’s daughter married and in the present era you know the exact worth of Rs 1 lakh.

Q: According to you, what should be the amount

Rana: At least 5 crore.

Q: Had you ever written a Nazm on Congress President Sonia Gandhi?

Rana: I belong to Rae Bareli. I had never written a Nazm on Ms Gandhi but had written a Nazm on a mother. A mother can be from our country and also from foreign soil. "Siyasat hamare Raebareli ke naalo se behkar Delhi pahuchti hai"

Q: What is your response to the allegations by Gopal Das Neeraj, that those returning the awards are playing politics?

Rana: Neeraj ji is a father figure to me. I have already said that our views may differ but our intentions are the same. Some stage their protest by sitting on dharna at Jantar Mantar, some by indefinite strike and we are doing it by returning our awards.

When, I met him a few days back I expressed my wish to massage his feet but he denied and hugged me and we started weeping like kids. This means that Neeraj ji was also concerned about the situation of the country.

(*Gopal Das Neeraj is a 92-years-old, renowned poet whose song “Ae bhai zara dekh k chalo” won international laurels.)