NDA Govt. says ‘Award Wapsi’ a travesty of history

New Delhi, Oct. 30 (ANI): Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh on Friday said the ongoing “Award Wapsi” campaign was a travesty of history.

“What is happening is a travesty of history. Traditionally, writers, artists and intellectuals are expected to contribute their might to uniting society and not become a party to any kind of process or a phenomenon which tends to divide society,” Singh told ANI.

Singh also said there were ample examples in recent history when artists, libertarians and intellectuals had come forward to undo any kind of atmosphere that tended to create strife in society.

Taking strong exception to scientists returning their awards, Singh said some of the eminent scientists, including Madhavan Nair, U.R Rao and Shekhar Basu have expressed their displeasure about this trend.

“Many more scientists are conveying their disassociation from this kind of a process,” he added.

Singh further said that the scientific fraternity is expected to concentrate on scientific experimentation and achievements instead of playing politics.

Historians today joined writers, filmmakers and scientists in growing protests against what they called a “climate of intolerance”.

Top scientist P M Bhargava said he will return his Padma Bhushan award, alleging that the NDA Government at the Centre was trying to make India into a “Hindu religious autocracy”.

Several more scientists have joined the wave of protests by Indian intelligentsia.

About 53 historians, including Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, K N Pannikar and Mridula Mukherjee have criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not issuing a “reassuring statement” to allay the concerns over what they called a “highly vitiated atmosphere” prevailing in the country.

“Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter arguments, but with bullets,” the statement by historians said referring to the recent Dadri lynching incident and the ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni during a book launch function in Mumbai.

“When writer after writer is returning their award of recognition in protest, no comment is made about the conditions that caused the protest; and instead the ministers call it a paper revolution and advise the writers to stop writing, this is as good as saying that intellectuals will be silenced if they protest,” the historians said in their statement.

Bhargava, who founded the prestigious Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, said he will return the award conferred on him in 1986 because he felt the climate in the country was of “very strong fear” and it was “against rationality, against reason and against scientific temper”.

Earlier, filmmakers, including names like Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan, returned various government awards and honours they have received to express solidarity with FTII students.

However, a few members of the Hindi film fraternity termed it as a “publicity gimmick” and an “insult”.

Anupam Kher, Madhur Bhandarkar and Ashoke Pandit are among those who have called the step disrespectful.

The filmmakers who returned the awards on Wednesday are Paresh Kamdar, Nishtha Jain, Kirti Nakhwa, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Hari Nair, Rakesh Sharma, Indraneel Lahiri and Lipika Singh Darai, apart from Banerjee and Patwardhan.

The move by select filmmakers happened on Wednesday, only hours after three prominent alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India – Vikrant Pawar of Maharashtra, Rakesh Shukla of Uttar Pradesh and Prateek Vats of Goa – announced that they would return their National Awards to protest “an atmosphere of intolerance” in the country in the last few months.

Before them, 33 Sahitya Akademi awardees had returned their awards in protest against what they perceived to be a growing atmosphere of intolerance in the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. (ANI)

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