They do not get feted in lit-fests, nor are their creative instincts insulated from the daily angst of earning a livelihood, thanks to fat book advances. Their routine struggles with the banality of life have, nevertheless, not diminished their capacity to spar with the powerful. The throwing back of the awards against undisguised majoritarianism, violence against minorities and intolerance towards alternative ideas tells us that it is largely in the regional languages that freedom is still recognised as “freedom for those who think differently”.

Barring exceptions such as Nayantara Sahgal, Shashi Deshpande, Mukul Kesavan and Ramachandra Guha who have been openly critical of the dominant political culture of our times, not much has been heard from the famous denizens of the world of fashionable fiction in India.

It cannot be pure coincidence that whether it is Arvind Malagatti, Kumbar Veerabhadrappa, GN Devy, Manglesh Dabral, Rajesh Joshi, Uday Prakash, Krishna Sobti, K Satchidanandan, Sara Joseph, Gurbachan Bhullar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh or Atamjit Singh, voices of dissent have come from the Hindi, Punjabi, Kannada, Malayalam and other regional literary oeuvres. Do we take it that the lit-fest crowd reflects a sensibility that is as divorced from the real India as some of their stories are?

It appears Sahgal has returned her award money too. How will Dabral gather enough resources to do this? Or the ageing Krishna Sobti, who would have to cut corners to find the required sum?

Will these fragile yet gritty torchbearers of literary dissent get any support from their more glamorous counterparts? Perhaps there will be sessions on the politics of dissent in the upcoming lit-fest season. Or a few tweets and FB entries.

How about shutting down the fests this year as a mark of protest? Perhaps then the ruling dispensation will heed these voices. After all, the ‘authors’ who attended the PM’s swearing-in ceremony should have some influence.

Political Editor