Amid the intense debate on the issue of tolerance, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday said that the government is open to discussion on the subject with the intellectuals. Speaking on a Television news channel, Mr. Singh said he has invited intellectuals for discussion in the wake of returning of awards by many writers, authors, scientists and filmmakers citing “rising intolerance” in the country.
The incident of Dadri lynching and the murders of rationalist thinkers and writers has sparked off a spree of protest with more than 40 writers and multi-lingual authors returning their Sahitya Akademi awards and honours, followed by over 30 filmmakers and artists giving up National awards. Noted scientist PM Bhargava had even returned his Padma Bhushan honour in protest.
“I still don’t know the reason behind returning of awards by them… As the home minister, I have invited intellectuals for discussion. I would like to know the reasons behind their returning awards,” Rajnath Singh said on Friday.
“And if there is intolerance, I would like to know from them the reasons behind it and how it could be solved,” the Union Home minister added while speaking on a news channel.
While intellectuals and artists had criticised the incumbent government and even Prime Minister Modi over the incidents, Union minister Arun Jaitley had accused them of being selective in their protest.
In the latest round of protest, 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. Returning their awards, the filmmakers had also 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.
On the other hand, the ruling party BJP had countered the allegations of “rising intolerance” questioning why these artists and intellectuals never raised protest in the past against the government of the day.
In a related development, the National Academy of Letters — Sahitya Akademi — on Friday urged the writers and authors to take back the awards they have relinquished in protest against the “rising intolerance”. Requesting the noted writers and multi-lingual authors, Sahitya Akademi once again said that these honours were given with love and respect and such feelings should be respected.
(With inputs from the PTI)