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India’s Sahitya Akademi Awards, one of the most prestigious and highest awards in literature has recently came into limelight after many of the Sahitya awardee announced to return their honors in protest at the centres silence in the series of attacks on freedom of expression and other rational attacks across India. There are certain things which everyone should know about the Sahitya Akademi and the related controversies. 1. The Akademi was formed by India’s government in 1954 to set high literary standards and foster and co-ordinate literary activities in all the Indian languages. The set-up works as an autonomous organization under India’s federal Culture Ministry. The headquarters is located in New Delhi and it hosts a library with books in 24 Indian languages. 2. The Akademi honor books of literary merit in the 24 languages that have official status in India, including English, Urdu, Sanskrit, Bengali and Punjabi. Other regional languages like Sindhi, Manipuri, Konkani and Santhali have recently been added to the list. 3. The awards are a part of the academy’s 60-year-old tradition. Originally worth 5,000 rupees ($77) the prize money along with the award now stands at 100,000 rupees. 4. The academy’s honored R.K. Narayan in 1960 for his novel “The Guide” which was the first English writing award. Amitav Ghosh, Jeet Thayil and Vikram Seth have also won awards in this category. 5. Prior to the several incidents that took place in past one month, In August, M.M. Kalburgi, an Indian rationalist and a Sahitya Akademi award holder, was murdered by unidentified assailants in his home state of Karnataka following remarks he reportedly made last year against the Hindu tradition of idol worship. So, in a protest against all these mishappenings, more than 40 Sahitya awardee announced to return their award. 6. At least 25 writers have said they will return their awards so far. “The great idea of India is based on a profound tolerance for diversity and difference,” wrote 1993 winner G.N. Devy in his letter to the academy on Oct. 11. “May I make bold to say that your moment of reckoning has come” he wrote. 7. Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, Academy’s President said in a press statement that the academy “condemns the attack on and murder of any writer or artist anywhere” and is committed to “the golden principle of the right to life for all.” He said remarks from several writers on the academy’s silence “pained” him. (- With Inputs from Indian Express)