Noted social activist Shabnam Hashmi returned the National Minority Rights Award on Tuesday, protesting against the recent mob lynchings, the latest being that of a Muslim teenager near the national capital.
Hashmi, who was conferred the award in 2008, said the National Commission for Minorities, which confers the award, has “lost all its credibility” and hit out at the chairperson of the body over his “condemnable statements”. NCM chairperson Gayorul Hasan Rizvi recently courted controversy saying those who cheered Pakistan’s victory in the Champions Trophy final against India should be “deported” to that country.
“I return the National Minority Rights Award, which has lost all its credibility, in protest against the consistent attacks and killings of the members of the minority communities and total inaction, apathy and tacit support to the violent gangs by the government,” Hashmi wrote in a letter to the commission.
It comes nearly two years after an episode where a number of authors, filmamkers and scientists had returned national awards in the wake of the lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri over rumours of beef consumption.
Earlier, she visited the commission and handed over the award and the citation to its Director TM Skaria. Hashmi said she tried contacting Rizvi as well but he was not available. The award carried no cash component before 2011 and used to come with a citation. However, in 2011 the Minority Affairs Ministry approved a proposal to attach a cash component of Rs 2 lakh (individuals) and Rs 5 lakh (organisations).
The citation that Hashmi was given lauded her work in Gujarat after the 2002 riots and also in Kashmir. It also mentioned that her work invoked the “wrath of divisive forces”, leading to physical attacks as well.
It is given to an individual or an organisation every year on Minorities Rights Day on December 18 for outstanding contribution to promote and protect the rights of minorities over a period of time. In 2013, there was a controversy when the award was given to Father Ajay Kumar Singh for his campaign against the 2002 Kandhamal riots in Odisha. The state government had objected to the decision.
Earlier this month, Hashmi had stepped down as the trustee of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), an NGO founded by her. The foreign funding license of the NGO was cancelled by the home ministry in December last year citing “undesirable activities against public interest.”