In another big wave of protest against the issue of “rising intolerance”, 24 filmmakers returned their National awards on Thursday. Three-time national award winner Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Kundan Shah and writer and commentator Arundhati Roy were among the noted figures who gave up their honours in protest. On the other hand, the ruling BJP countered the allegations of “rising intolerance” while addressing the press in New Delhi. Just on Wednesday, Union Parliamentary Affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu had said that the government is ready for a debate on the issue.
Returning their awards, the filmmakers strongly expressed their support for the students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), who have been protesting against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan, TV actor and a BJP member, as the Chairman of the premier institute.
Kundan Shah, who received the National Award for his cult film “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro”, said giving up his only National Award was a very sad but necessary decision to protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of FTII.
“This is the only National Award I have for ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ am I feel very sad to part with it. I owe this award to my alma mater FTII- there would’ve been no JBDY if I had not studied at FTII,” Mr. Shah said.
Former FTII chairman Saeed Mirza, known for his films like “Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai” and TV show “Nukkad”, said the protest started by the FTII students has become bigger and has shaped into the movement against “intolerance, divisiveness and hate”.
“When the students of the FTII rose up in revolt against the ad-hoc and arrogant imposition of the governing council members of their institute by the government of India, little did they realise that the cause for which they were fighting would turn out to be so much larger,” said Mirza.
“The battle that the students had begun went beyond the manipulation of education to include intolerance, divisiveness and hate,” Mirza added.
Noted writer Arundhati Roy too returned her best screenplay National Award that she received for “In which Annie Gives it Those Ones” in 1989.
On its part, the incumbent Modi government questioned the protest while addressing a presser in their party headquarters in New Delhi. Union minister and senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said, “Wrong perceptions being spread to derail government’s development agenda”.
Countering the criticism that the current protest against the ruling BJP-led NDA government, Kundan Shah said his films were against the then ruling government, Congress too.
“This is not a protest against BJP only…. We’ve protested through our work against the Congress government too,” he said.
The series of protest against what is termed as “rising intolerance” began with the return of Sahitya Akademi awards by more than 40 legendary authors and multi-lingual authors after the incidents of lynching of a 50-year-old man in Dadri over the rumours of beef eating and the murder of rationalist thinkers. Soon scientists and many other filmmakers including Bollywood director Dibakar Banerjee and documentary maker Anand Patwardhan joined in returning their National awards.
Other noted artists who returned their National awards on Thursday included documentary filmmaker Anwar Jamal, director Virendra Saini, Pradip Krishnen, Manoj Lobo, sound designers Vivek Sachidanand, PM Satheesh, Ajay Raina, director Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti, editor Irene Dhar Malik, cinematographer Satya Rai Nagpaul, director Amitabh Chakraborty, filmmaker Tapan Bose and Madhusree Dutta.
(With inputs from the PTI)