Syam returns Padmashree to denounce CAB
IMPHAL, 3rd Feb: Highly decorated filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma has announced that he will return the Padmashree award conferred to him by the Government of India in 2006 as a mark of protest against the passing of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 by the Lok Sabha recently.
Speaking to newspersons at his Thangmeiband Lourungpurel Leikai residence on Sunday, Syam described as both unfortunate and condemnable that neither the Central government nor the government of Manipur is acknowledging the fact that the Bill is being opposed in all the north-eastern states.
The disheartening aspect of the issue at hand is that the governments continue to ignore voices of dissent as well as demand by over 90 per cent of the northeast communities for withdrawal of the Bill, he said, and regretted that in-spite of the fierce objection raised against the Bill and spontaneous protests across the northeast, the BJP-led government at the Centre plans to table and pass the proposed legislation in the on-going session of Rajya Sabha.
Stating that decision to return the Padmashree award is in solidarity with the present movement of the people of NE and Manipur, Syam lamented that instead of according importance to the demand for constitutional safeguard of the threatened indigenous communities settling in the region, the Centre seems determined to enact CAB that aims to grant citizenship to countless numbers of foreign nationals.
Further recounting that he had witnessed many epochal events including World War-II and the Indian independence movement but none of these history making movements posed any threat to the indigenous people, Syam cautioned that in case CAB is made an Act then the indigenous people of North East are destined for extinction.
Moreover, the Bill directly threatens the culture and identity of people of Manipur as the state unlike other neighbouring NE states is yet to have an effective mechanism to safeguard the indigenous communities, he noted.
Stressing the need for all sections of the society to remain united for saving Manipur’s future and appealing to intellectuals as well as elderly citizens of the state to fearlessly state his/her stand on the Bill, Syam suggested the BJP-led government in the state to take bold steps to address grievances of the people rather than wait for sympathetic disposition of the Centre.
While pointing out that governments of north-eastern states like Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, etc., have declared outright rejection of the CAB, he cautioned that indecision of the state government on the issue till date will only aggravate the situation.
"The chief minister is asking just for a clause. They should oppose the Bill and not ask for an addition or a comma. We are not happy with the approach of Biren and his party,” said the octogenarian filmmaker.
“There is no protection for people of the valley (in Manipur). If more people come, then they (indigenous people) will vanish in the valley or hills. What’s the point of having culture if there are no indigenous people? Manipuri’s future will be all diluted. Northeast is becoming a dumping ground,” he added. Responding to a poser, Syam said that he will hand over the citation and award of Padmashree to the competent authority within short notice along with stating that re-accepting the award, if any, will depend on whether or not the Central government withdraws the Bill.
Reiterating that the Bill is against the interest of the people of North-East and the indigenous people of Manipur, Syam asserted that he has taken a firm stand to return the Padmashree - the fourth highest civilian award - to protest against the contentious Bill.
“Padmashree is an honour. It is one of the highest forms of recognition in India. So, I thought the best way to protest was by returning it,” said Syam, who is acclaimed for making films like “Ishanou”, “Imagi Ningthem” and “Leipaklei”.
He was the director and actor of the first Manipuri film, “Matamgi Manipur”, released in 1972 and won many prestigious medals at national and international film events.