Noted Manipuri filmmaker Aribam Shyam Sharma on Sunday returned his Padma Shri award, which he received in 2006, as a mark of protest against Modi government’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
“I am returning the Padma Shri award given to me by the government of India in solidarity to the voice of the people of the North East and Manipur who has been vociferously opposing the citizenship Bill,” said Sharma. The Bill, he said, is a threat to the small state like Manipur which has a population less than a district of Uttar Pradesh.
The identity and culture of Manipur will be pushed to the brink of extinction, similar to that of Tripura, if the Bill becomes a law, the filmmaker added.
Sharma also appealed to his fellow senior citizens to join the movement against the Citizenship Bill. “There is no meaning of life when our future is dark. It pains me that the Government of India remained indifferent to the voice of the Northeastern people”, he said.
Reacting to Manipur government’s attempt to convince the Centre in adding a clause in the Bill to protect the indigenous people of Manipur, he said it would be an almost impossible feat to achieve when the Bill has been already been passed by the Lok Sabha.
In his appeal to Manpur CM N.Biren Singh, Sharma suggested that the Manipur government should outrightly oppose the Bill.
Sharma has won several national awards for films such as ‘Imagi Ningthem’ (My Precious Son, 1981), ‘Ishanou’, and ‘Sangai – The Dancing Deer’. He is also credited for revolutionising cinema in Manipur during the 1970s.
Sharma’s mark of protest came days after family members of the people who lost their lives during the Assam agitation of the eighties – who were given Martyrs award by the Sarbananda Sonowal government in 2016 – decided to return the awards.
Manipur also witnessed a general strike against the Bill that seeks to grant Indian citizenship to non-Muslims who fled religious persecution from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and entered India before December 31, 2014.
The strike was called by the recently-formed Manipur People Against Citizenship Amendment Bill (MPACAB), with representation from 66 organisations. Protesters burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh at several places in Imphal valley, besides organising mass sit-demonstrations.