Assamese poet Nilmani Phookan and Goan novelist Damodar Mauzo were on Tuesday announced as winners of the Jnanpith Award – India’s highest literary honour.
Phookan won the 56th Jnanpith Award, while Mauzo was honoured with the 57th prize, said Bharatiya Jnanpith, the literary organisation that presents the awards.
Phookan’s work is regarded as the representative of symbolism in Assamese poetry. Among his noteworthy works are Surya Henu Nami Ahe Ei Nodiyedi (The sun is said to come descending by this river) and Kobita.
In 1981, Phookan won the Sahitya Akademi Award – considered among India’s most prestigious literary honours – for his poetry collection Kobita. He was awarded the Padma Shree, the country’s fourth-highest civilian honour, in 1990.
Meanwhile, Mauzo, in a career spanning over five decades, has written novels, short stories, screenplays and has “proven impossible to pigeonhole”, said writer Vivek Menezes in article for the Hindustan Times in 2019.
Mauzo has been honoured with the Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel Karmelin and has received many other literary and cultural prizes.
The Goan writer has also openly spoken against the Sanathan Sanstha – an extremist Hindutva group whose members have been linked to the killings of rationalist thinkers such as Gauri Lankesh, Narendra Dabholkar, MM Kalburgi and Govind Pansare.
Mauzo was given police protection in 2018 after the alleged killers of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh revealed a conspiracy to murder him too.