Adivasi poet and journalist Jacinta Kerketta has refused to accept the Aaj Tak Sahitya Jagriti Udyman Pratibha Samman, a literary accolade by the India Today Group, for her collection of Hindi-language poems Ishwar aur Bazaar, reported Newslaundry on Friday.

Published in 2022 by Rajkamal Prakashan, Ishwar aur Bazaar talks about the civilizational threats faced by India’s Indigenous populations and their grassroots struggles against power. Kerketta, a member of the Oraon Adivasi community, was born in 1983 in Khudaposh, a village in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district.

In 2022, Forbes named the poet as one of the 22 self-made women in India.

On Friday, Kerketta told Newslaundry that if a book it written about society, it becomes important but not the people. “This is not our way of looking at things,” she said. “We want to celebrate our work collectively... What should a writer or poet do just for his own respect? Because of these things, I refused to accept the honour.”

She also blamed the mainstream media for not trying to bring the plight of adivasis to light. It’s not just about one media house, but any decision I take will definitely be influenced by how the so-called mainstream media of the country plays its role towards marginalised people,” she told the news website.

Highlighting the plight of Kuki-Zomi tribals in Manipur, Kerketta said that news of the award did not inspire happiness. “This is coming at a time when the respect for life of the tribals of Manipur is ending,” Kerketta told told news website.

Since May 3, Manipur has been wracked by deadly ethnic clashes between the majority Meiteis and the tribal Kukis. The violence has left over 200 people dead and nearly 60,000 persons have been forced to flee their homes.

The Sahitya Aaj Tak awards are distributed annually to honour achievements in Indian language literature. The award ceremony will be held over three days at the National Stadium in New Delhi, beginning today. The award came with a cash prize of Rs 50,000.

Also read: The anger of Adivasis turns to poetry of anguish and hope in a young woman’s hands