Nayantara Sahgal speaks at event in New Delhi, India on November 30, 2007. (RAMESH LALWANI/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Acclaimed Indian writer Nayantara Sahgal returned an award from India's National Academy of Letters on Tuesday to protest what she calls an assault on free speech in the country. Sahgal is the niece of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. 

In a statement titled "The unmaking of India", Sahgal listed the murders of writers and activists, as well as the lynching of a Muslim man accused of eating beef as part of a "vicious assault" on India's "culture of diversity and debate". 

Sahgal also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his lack of response to the killings. She said persecution takes place against those who question conservative Hinduism. 

Some accused Sahgal of a double standard, however, as she accepted the Sahitya Akademi award in 1986, two years after riots that killed thousands of Sikhs. She was also accused of ignoring other instances of religious persecution since receiving her award: