Famous Seraiki poet and writer Ashu Lal has refused to accept Pakistan’s highest literary prize, Kamal-i-Fun, with a cash prize of PKR 1 million announced by the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL ), Dawn reported.
He was selected for the award by a committee of PAL and the announcement in this regard was made at a press conference by Dr. Yousuf Khushk, President of the Academy.
Urdu novelist and travelogue writer Mustansar Hussain Tarar is the other author to receive the country’s highest honor besides Ashu Lal.
After the award was announced, Ashu Lal took to social media and announced his refusal to accept the award in a message posted to Seraiki.
He said, “I express my gratitude to the friends. I refuse to accept the price. I didn’t send any of my books to the Academy of Letters. In my opinion, my refusal (to accept the award) is more valuable. the activism of the past 40 years is my reward (as a writer). I don’t want to live in brackets. Thank you.
“The deep state is oppressing the natives, our resources and our culture. Our children are disappearing under the fascist regime. The natives are badly ignored. How can we accept the price of an anti-people and anti-art state?”.
He says the awards are mainly politically driven and have become controversial, limited only to photo shoots.
The poet has claimed that he has nothing to do with the deep state of government, literature or culture, and considers it demeaning to himself to accept an award from a president of the current regime which does not even know about it.
Born on April 13, 1959, he was called Muhammad Ashraf but adopted the nickname ‘Ashu Lal’, given to him by his mother, when he began to write in the Seraiki language.
He is a doctor by profession. After completing his MBBS from Quaid-i-Azam Medical College, Bahawalpur, he served as a doctor throughout the region, sometimes working in places no doctor would want to go.
He retired two years ago. Since then, he has been running a clinic in Karor Lal Esan tehsil in Layyah district where treatment is free for the poor, Dawn reported.
“I am 62 years old. Since my youth, I have only believed in literary activism. By accepting an award from the current exploitative regime, how can I waste my 45-year struggle of writing in Seraiki and Urdu? ” He asked.
Asked about sending books to PAL for the award, Ashu said his friend sent a book on his own way in 1997 and except he never sent a book to the academy.
“I am not against any mother tongue or regional language. I urge Punjabi speakers to adopt Punjabi in schools,” he said, adding that the state’s policy of not giving educating people in their native language is one tactic to keep them back.
He says he follows the resistance of Bulleh Shah and Kabir.