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Returning of awards an expression of intolerance: Ex-ISRO chief

Trivandrum: Expressing dissent over the return of awards by scientists and writers alleging “growing intolerance” in the country, Ex-ISRO chief Madhavan Nair on Friday said the “method was not right” and it was also “an expression of intolerance”.

“I am not in an agreement with the process of returning awards. Awards are something to be respected. It is given by the nation in recognition to the contribution made by an individual. It is a proud possession, and they must respect it,” Nair told ANI.

“In a way, what these people are doing is also an expression of intolerance,” he added.

Asserting that some stray incidences have happened in some parts of the country over which people are upset, Nair said: “There are various ways of solving such issues, we should talk to concerned people and should find solutions.”

When asked about any political agenda behind the returning of awards by the individuals, Nair said he won’t rule out the possibility of a political agenda.

“Always the ruling party’s view and the opposition partys’ views would be different and opposition may have various tactics by which they try to put pressure on the government,” Nair said.

Ex ISRO chief also said that the Government doesn’t have to do anything on this issue as the incidents were taking place because of the local societal set-ups.

Historians today joined writers, filmmakers and scientists in growing protests against what they called a “climate of intolerance”.

Top scientist P M Bhargava said he will return his Padma Bhushan award, alleging that the NDA Government at the Centre was trying to make India into a “Hindu religious autocracy”.

Several more scientists have joined the wave of protests by Indian intelligentsia.

About 53 historians, including Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, K N Pannikar and Mridula Mukherjee have criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not issuing a “reassuring statement” to allay the concerns over what they called a “highly vitiated atmosphere” prevailing in the country.

“Differences of opinion are being sought to be settled by using physical violence. Arguments are met not with counter arguments, but with bullets,” the statement by historians said referring to the recent Dadri lynching incident and the ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni during a book launch function in Mumbai.

“When writer after writer is returning their award of recognition in protest, no comment is made about the conditions that caused the protest; and instead the ministers call it a paper revolution and advise the writers to stop writing, this is as good as saying that intellectuals will be silenced if they protest,” the historians said in their statement.

Bhargava, who founded the prestigious Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, said he will return the award conferred on him in 1986 because he felt the climate in the country was of “very strong fear” and it was “against rationality, against reason and against scientific temper”.

Earlier, filmmakers, including names like Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan, returned various government awards and honours they have received to express solidarity with FTII students.

However, a few members of the Hindi film fraternity termed it as a “publicity gimmick” and an “insult”.

Anupam Kher, Madhur Bhandarkar and Ashoke Pandit are among those who have called the step disrespectful.

The filmmakers who returned the awards on Wednesday are Paresh Kamdar, Nishtha Jain, Kirti Nakhwa, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Hari Nair, Rakesh Sharma, Indraneel Lahiri and Lipika Singh Darai, apart from Banerjee and Patwardhan.

The move by select filmmakers happened on Wednesday, only hours after three prominent alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India – Vikrant Pawar of Maharashtra, Rakesh Shukla of Uttar Pradesh and Prateek Vats of Goa – announced that they would return their National Awards to protest “an atmosphere of intolerance” in the country in the last few months.

Before them, 33 Sahitya Akademi awardees had returned their awards in protest against what they perceived to be a growing atmosphere of intolerance in the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi.