In an unprecedented incident in the history of India, 24 artists including the celebrated authors like Arundhati Roy along with numerous celebrated film-makers decided to return National Awards on November 5th to protest against the rising number of incidences of Intolerance in India.
These artists joined the long list of artists and authors who returned their making the total number rise to 75. Ironically the niece of Jawahar Lal Nehru, Nayantara Sahgal was amongst the first artists to return their Sahitya Akademi Award stating ‘Secularism was under threat like never before.’
Amongst these filmmakers, was Kundan Shah, the maker of a cult-classic ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ and also Saeed Akhtar Mirza who returned his three national awards. Other prominent names include, Debakar Banerjee, Anwar Jamal, director Virendra Saini, Editor Irene Dhar Malik, filmamaker Tapan Bose and Madhushree Dutta.
It all started when Hindu Writer, Uday Prakash returned his Sahitya Akademi Award in protest of the murder of a fellow recipient litterateur MM Kulbargi. Following this, Nayantara Sahgal returned her award showing her discontent regarding ‘Modi government’s failure to safeguard of Cultural diversity’. Soon after many more followed, including 11 film-makers who protested not only against the growing intolerance but also in support of the FTII students who have been protesting against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as institute’s chief.
Arundhati Roy, expressing herself in an article in The Indian Express stated, “‘Intolerance’ is rather a wrong word to use for violence such as ‘lynching, shooting, burning and mass murder of fellow human beings’”.
The movement was met with mixed responses. Some supported the movement while others came out to criticize it openly. The British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor and author Salman Rushdie expressed their support to these artists. Infosys founder Narayan Murthy supported the cause stating that there has been considerable increase in the number of instances which can bring fear into minorities. Shah Rukh Khan supported the artists but refused to part with his awards for the support.
On contrary to this, famous actors like Kamal Haasan and Vidya Balan mentioned doubt in the effectiveness of returning awards and refused to return their own.
As a reply to this movement BJP on Thursday released a book named ‘Know The Truth’. Speaking about the book, BJP leader Venkaiyah Naidu said, “The whole thing (the movement) has been created to derail the developmental agenda of the Modi government. The purpose of the book is to show both sides of the story.” Whether BJP government is trying to save its own image or trying to make the people aware of the truth, However the ‘Award Waapsi ’ or return of awards has certainly disconcerted some.