Leading English Poet from Odisha, Jayant Mahapatra, has shocked everyone by deciding to return the ‘Padma Shri’ award received in 2009 over the alleged “rising intolerance” in the country. He took the decision at a time when the debate was already over aftermath Bihar Assembly polls. In his interview to The Hindu, he played the minority card.
However, Jayant Mahapatra decided to retain his Sahitya Akademi Award he received in 1981 as the first Indian winner in English Poetry. “As it was not given by any government, I won’t return it,” he said. Mr. Mohapatra has written to the President in this regard.
Jayant Mahapatra talked about rising intolerance and communal tensions across the country. Born in 1928, he had achieved many laurels for his English poetry. An orthodox Brahmin by birth, he converted to Christianity later.
Mr. Mahapatra sought to play the minority card in his interview to The Hindu, saying “Since I am from a minority community surrounded by a majority community in my locality, I am unable to concentrate on my writing as I am apprehensive of expressing my views. I don’t know how my neighbourhood will react to my writing”.
Although he is a Christian, he must know that there is no religious divide in Odisha. Odisha has been a peaceful state and there has been no such incidents in the recent years, which created a fear psychosis in his mind. He lives in Cuttack, which is known for Hindu-Muslim unity.