Returning of National Awards by Indian Intellectuals
By: HEMANTKUMAR GAJANANA PADHYA
Returning of National Award by Indian Intellectuals is very hot topic in India and abroad. The present agitation and campaign of returning National Award by intellectuals in India which have made headlines not only in India but also all over the world. Returning award is not a new phenomenon in the world. Many intellectuals, artists, writers and film stars have refused to accept the award or have returned their award in past for sensible and rightful reasons to protest or for personal reasons. The world famous Nobel Prize winner poet and multi- talented personality and spiritual man Maharshi Rabindranath Tagore was granted a knighthood by the British Crown in 1915. Maharshi Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood in response to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. In the repudiation letter to the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, he wrote, ’’The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part, wish to stand, shorn, of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings.’’ Tagore returned his Knighthood in protest because of the inhumane mistreatment of his fellow countrymen by foreign ruler.
Mr Mohanlal Karamchand Gandhiji was awarded the Kaisar-I-Hind in 1915 by The Lord Hardinge of Penshurstfor his help and contribution to ambulance services in South Africa During Boer War in 1899-1900 and Zulu War in 1906. However those medals and award Gandhiji accepted for helping British in two wars were very controversial as Gandhiji sided with British in war against peace and freedom loving people of Independent Transvaal State in South Africa and later against Zulu people supporting British oppression and heavy Poll Tax imposed on poor people who could not afford to pay. Gandhiji returned the awards in support of Khilafat Movement. Gandhiji’s support to Khilafat Movement later brought big disaster in Indian freedom politics and resulted in slaughter of thousands of Hindus and rapes of Hindus women in Kerala. Gandhiji wrote a letter to the Viceroy of India which was published in Young India dated 4th August, 1920 saying ‘’ It is not without a pang that I return the Kaiser-I-Hind gold medal granted to me by your predecessor for my humanitarian work in South Africa, the Zulu War medal granted in South Africa for my services as officer in charge of the Indian volunteer ambulance corps in 1906 and the Boer War medal for my services as assistant superintendent of the Indian volunteer stretcher-bearer corps during the Boer War of 1899-1900. I venture to return these medals in pursuance of the scheme of non-cooperation inaugurated today in connection with the Khilafat movement. Valuable as these honours have been to me, I cannot wear them with an easy conscience so long as my Mussalman countrymen have to labour under a wrong done to their religious sentiment. Events that have happened during the past one month have confirmed me in the opinion that the Imperial Government have acted in the Khilafat matter in an unscrupulous, immoral and unjust manner and have been moving from wrong to wrong in order to defend their immorality. I can retain neither respect nor affection for such a Government.’’
These two great Indian personalities were the first Indians to return the award to British Government for two different reasons. We must understand that those awards were granted by despotic British rule in India and British Monarchy and they were not awards from any independent, republic and sovereign nation of their motherland. Some might argue that why Tagore and Gandhi did accept those awards from despotic foreign government in first place, if they considered themselves as an apostle of freedom.
The dramatic scenario of a campaign of returning National Awards started after the mob killing of a Muslim man in Dadri Uttar Pradesh over a rumours that he had eaten and stored Beef and after the murder of two leading rationalists Mr Dabholkar, leader of Communist Party of India and Kannada writer and rationalist Dr M M Kulburgy, a member of Bharatiya Janata Party. The trend of returning of National Award started by an eminent writer Nayantara Sahgal, a niece of Pandit Jawaharlala Nehru of Nehru Dynasty. She returned the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in protest against what she labelled the ‘’Vanishing space’’ for diversity and extreme intolerance and “vicious assault” on India’s diversity and debate, and the government’s failure to safeguard it. She also claimed that “India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault”. Indian print and digital media and Television hyped the issue and started vigorous hate and blame campaign against B J P lead Central Government of India and tried to show that the Indian Hindus are becoming lawless, barbaric, extremist, undemocratic, intolerant and transforming India into a theoretic banana republic and Hindu majority of this country is intolerant, unaccommodating, cruel, dangerous, barbaric, murder and dangerous to ethnic and religious minorities and intellectuals. Arundhati Roy, a controversial writer who join the band wagon of Award returning brigade, wrote, “Life is hell for the living too. Whole populations — millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians — are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come,” (What about Parsis or Zoroastrians, the micro minority of India, Madam? They definitely know how to live in peace and harmony with their tolerant Hindu brothers and sisters and other should learn from them). By saying this, Arundhati Roy tried to portray India and Hindus as the worst then ISIS state and Islamic terrorists in Middle East but any Tom, Dick and Harry would dismiss her senseless, baseless, exaggerated and false statement as India is not on the verge of any emergency or communal war. She has also mentioned that of returning National Award by her and other 41 writers to protest against attacks on minorities, murder of rationalists, threats to free speech, enforcement of beef bans, religious intolerance and the vicious remarks by leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Many personalities of Bollywood film Industries also joined the Award Returning Campaign with added political agenda of the selection of Gajendra Chauhan as chairperson of FTII. They forget that the Bollywood and TV industries are one of the main worst mediums who are promoting and propagating superstition and many times created controversy through their films and TV serials.
What intolerance those intellectuals and media peoples are talking about? Have they forgotten that those foreigners who came to our motherland Hindusthan as invaders, oppressors, destroyers, killers and looters have been accepted and accommodated in the society by this great Indian nation and its indigenous inhabitants called Aryans or Hindus? They are the same Hindu people who have given Asylum to Parsis of Iran or Persia who were persecuted and forced to leave their motherland by barabaric invasion of Islam. They have also given asylum to the Jews and ever Syrian Christrian too and provided all assistance and help to live independently. Those intellectuals blaming Hindus of intolerance must know that many prominent Jewish writers and historians have gracefully said that Hindusthan or Indian is the only country where Jews were never ever persecuted. History is the proof of tolerance of the people of Hindusthan or India and few intellectuals would not tarnish that pristine image of this great nation. The spirit of tolerance will never die in India, the lands of oldest civilization of the world, unless someone tries to oppress and suppress the indigenous culture, tradition and religion of those people.
Any unlawful killing is deplorable and condemnable but the way whole issue is raised and hyped by those intellectuals and media are out of context and proportion. Where were they when eighteen major communal riots over 50 years and genocide of Sikh community took place in 1984 during Congress rule? Where were they when Shrimati Geetaben Ranchiya, Animal Rights Activist and honorary inspector of the Akhil Bharat Hinsa Nivaran Sangh, was brutally butchered by two Muslims butches in Ahmedabad in 1993 in broad daylight during the reign of Congress in state and central government?
It is very easy and comfortable to criticise, accuse, abuse and tarnish the image of present ruling government, Prime Minister, organization or individuals in Democratic country in this world. Would those intellectuals and media spewing venom at religious majority, ruling party and government of India and causing a big stir at present in India would have been ever spared if they were in Islamic and dictatorial countries? Have those Intellectuals, activists, Filmmakers, writers who have returned National Awards for intolerance in India ever protested, written or agitated against the conditions of women and religious and ethnic minorities in Islamic countries or ever shown any sympathy and supported the cause of those displaced Kashmiri Brahmans living in exile in their own country?
National Award is given on behalf of a Sovereign Nation as whole. It is not awarded by a ruling government of any political party or individual person or public or private organizations. In my opinion, any person returns the National Awards insults the sovereign Nation, people of nation and the respectable jury who voted to select that person or persons. National Award is a pride of nation, it is a great respect bestowed by a nation to the unique, excellent and exceptional deserving personalities who have rendered their contribution to many fields of life. If any citizen of India shows any disrespect to his or her Sovereign nation by returning National Awards must be punished by revoking those returned awards once and for all. India is democratic and free country. If any citizens have dispute or disagreement on any issue they have rights to express their protest and show their opposition in many different ways in proper manner without insulting and discrediting the honour of Sovereign Nation. Analysing the whole issue and present stable and normal situation and condition in India, It is a big lie to say that India is heading for religious intolerance, extremism and anarchy where democracy and freedom of speech is in great danger. It makes anybody guessing whether those intellectuals returning National Awards and agitating against Indian Government, Hindu organizations, Hindu peoples and ruling BJP are actually intellectuals in real sense as their reasons of protest seems nothing but exaggerated fantasy and lie and their movement is politically motivated and fabricated..
The counter campaign The latest figures published shows that there are 54 Actors, Musicians, writers poets and Artists, 28 scientists and academics have publicly opposed the returning of National Award or ‘’Award Wapasi’’ movement. Among this list, prominent personalities like Anil Kapoor, RavinaTandan, Madhu Bhandarkar, Vidya Balan, shyama Benegal, Salim Khan, Kamal Hasan, Anup Jalota,, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, G Madhavan Nair(Former Chairman of ISRO) , Physicist Bikash Sinha etc. Veteran actor Anupam kher has slammed the people from Bollywood and other film industry who returned their National Awards and criticised them strongly. He is now supported by numerous personalities from Film Industries to lead a campaign against those who returned National Award calling them ‘’Award Wapasi Gang’ ’ Anupam Kher has announced that he will lead a rally to Rashtapati Bhavan against the ‘’Award Wapasi’’ or Award returning movement on 7Th November and many big names in Film Industry will lead and join the march.
The whole scenario of returning National Awards in India by so called intellectuals and the statements of those award returnees seems to be the deliberate, politically motivated and orchestrated campaign to defame, tarnish and discredit Indian Nation, the Prime Minister, ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Hindus, Hindu religion and its beliefs. The time has come to deal with those people legally and constitutionally who have made false accusations and allegations and giving misleading statements, spreading rumours and damaging the image of India on the world stage.