Returning Awards In Protest!

Returning any award is not an easy task. A celebrity’s “award,” at present in news, also symbolizes recognition of the precious effort put in because of which a particular piece of work, series linked with it and/or an entire lifetime devoted to the same pursuit has been honoured. And of course those precious moments of the award(s) being received have their own special emotional importance, which cannot be perhaps totally described as they are felt. Think of the meaningful smiles, delighted faces, moist eyes, joyous expressions and a lot more, in a highly pleasantly charged atmosphere of receiving the awards.  Surely, returning the same has not been an easy task for many Indian celebrities who have taken to this path. But with each passing day, more are taking to the same path. They have the right to demonstrate their protest against what they are so intensely affected by. Some celebrities have also issued statements to mark their protest.

Each citizen has the fundamental right to voice his/her stand regarding what he/she is concerned about. These citizens have chosen this path to express their concern about abuse of fundamental rights of Indians in several communal incidents. This includes the Dadri-lynching case. A group of extremist, communally-biased citizens had chosen to attack a Muslim family, simply because they suspected that mutton kept in its refrigerator was cow-meat. They had taken law into their own hands, which amounted to their violating law and order system of the country. The Muslim family’s fundamental rights as Indian citizens were abused. This perhaps is a reflection of prejudice still borne against Muslims and other minorities by those linked with the saffron brigade.

Members associated with saffron brigade, tragically, apparently have the tendency to view minorities, dalits and adivasis as second class citizens who could be humiliated and even killed with impunity. This attitude, emboldened by the presence of BJP in power at the Centre, also appears to have let them assume that they can be in command of dalits’ and minorities’ lives as they wish to. This is an extremely grievous trait, symbolic of communal poison trying to root out the secular strength of the country. Failure of those in power to take effective stand against this behaviour appears to have emboldened them to target more and more minorities as dalits as well as all those they feel are obstacles in their path.  Silence regarding their communal activities also amounts to encouraging them to continue their activities. And this appears to be happening under the present dispensation.

Against this backdrop, if some celebrities have chosen not to shut their eyes against such dangerous communal activities, what is wrong with this? It is their means of showing their concern for the country’s Constitution, its spirit of secularism and also democracy. And if they have decided to register their protest by returning their awards, issuing statements and similar such peaceful means, they have only tried to assert their role as Indian citizens, their responsibility towards the Indian Constitution and sense of humanitarianism as well as secularism against the brutal manner in which members of minorities and dalits have been targeted by those linked with the saffron brigade.  

Each celebrity has decided to voice his/her stand out of his/her own choice and conviction. There is no record of anybody having been forced by any group, organisation or community to take this step. Yes, there are certainly a few other celebrities who have questioned the decision of some 75 writers and artists etc to return their awards. Then there are also some who have criticized the ongoing communal activities but have also expressed their unwillingness to return their awards.

As mentioned earlier, each and every award recipient as well as concerned citizens are not expected to return their awards or issue  statements. In this case, a citizen has his democratic right to treat his/her reward as he/she wishes to. Keep it or return it. But, being critical of those returning their awards is hardly reflective of healthy criticism.

If certain citizens seem acutely concerned about this process of returning rewards, then questioning or criticising this move seems hardly the appropriate response to the same. They need to strike at its root cause, the communal menace that has prompted celebrities to take this step. Each action, returning awards, issuing statements and so forth, marks protest and concern against the disrespect shown to the country’s Constitution, law and order system and the minority citizens. Sadly, while quite a few linked with the Central government have criticised the celebrities’ decision to return awards, they have not gone beyond this. They have chosen to be silent regarding their stand on the communal activities which moved the angry celebrities to take this step. If in their view returning awards is not the right process, why don’t they suggest steps needed to counter the saffron brigade’s communalism?

One can only salute the celebrities and others who have chosen to raise their voice against the threat of communalism raising its head. It is as yet too early to label their protest as the beginning of a secular movement. But, definitely, the manner they are asserting their voice stands symbolic of the start of a strong secular campaign against the saffron brigade’s communalism.    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 November 2015 on page no. 11

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