The BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi came in for rude shock after the renowned Manipuri filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma announced that he will return his Padma Shri award in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill. The 15-time National Award winner Sharma announced on Sunday that he will return the fourth highest civilian honour to register his protest against the contentious Bill.
“The Bill is against the interest of the people of North-East and the indigenous people of Manipur. Several people here (Manipur) have opposed the Bill, but it seems they (the Central government) are determined to pass it,” Sharma told news agency IANS.
Known for his popular films such as Ishanou, Imagi Ningthem and Leipaklei, Sharma was conferred with Padma Shri in 2006.
The BJP has been facing unprecedented protests against the Bill in Assam, where it formed the government in 2016. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has been greeted with black flags during his visits to different parts of the state. Last week, a group of angry protesters had mercilessly thrashed a local BJP leader Lakheswar Moran. The video of Moran scurrying for cover had gone viral on social media platforms.
Such is the anger that a famous Assamese singer Zubeen Garg even asked the BJP to return all votes that the party secured using his song in the 2016 assembly elections.
Passed in Lok Sabha on 8 January, the contentious Bill seeks to provide Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to news agency PTI, a large section of people in the northeast have opposed the Bill, saying it would nullify the provisions of the Assam Accord of 1985, which fixed March 24, 1971, as the cut-off date for deportation of illegal immigrants irrespective of religion.
Sharma said that the Bill took away every protection from the indigenous Manipuri population. He said that if more people were allowed in, then the indigenous people will vanish in the valley or hills.