The Richard Dawkins award is meant to felicitate “a distinguished individual from the worlds of science, scholarship, education or entertainment, who publicly proclaim the values of secularism and rationalism, upholding scientific truth” and now, lyricist, poet, and screenwriter. Javed Akhtar has become the first Indian to receive the prestigious honour.

Akhtar has always been vocal about issues ranging from the citizenship amendment act and the burqa, niqab and purdah practices. He has also raised his voice constantly against the right-wing policies of the current government in power.

“It was about 20 years ago that I came across Mr. Dawkins’s best seller The God Delusion and it was the first time I had a book that talked about my beliefs, or rather, my disbeliefs. It was an eye opener because there were many things in it that I had thought on my own and many others that gave me a new insight about the point of view that I had nurtured for such a long time,” Akhtar said in an interview to livemint.

“This idea that it is the responsibility of the artiste doesn’t appeal to me. I see it as a privilege and right to affect society and its aspirations, address its hurt and hopes. It is not the duty of an artiste. If he is doing it as a duty, he is taking on a job and it is not coming from his inner being,” he added.

Taking to Twitter, his son, actor Farhan Akhtar tweeted: “Congratulations pa.. for being the first Indian to receive the Richard Dawkins Award for critical thinking and advancing humanist values. You absolutely and unequivocally deserve it. So so proud.”

Previous recipients of the award include Bill Maher, Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, and Christopher Hitchens.

(Header image: Wikimedia Commons)