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Manipur filmmaker Aribam Shyam Sharma to return Padma Shri in protest against Citizenship Bill

“It would be morally wrong to keep an award from a government that does not seem to be heeding the concerns of the people about the controversial Bill,” Mr. Sharma said.

Manipur-based filmmaker and music composer Aribam Syam Sharma has decided to return his 2006 Padma Shri award in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that the Centre wants to push through.

The 83-year-old filmmaker made the decision less than a week after families of around 855 martyrs of the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation of 1979-85 returned the citation that the Sarbananda Sonowal government had given them in 2016. The government had also honoured these families with ₹5 lakh each for the sacrifice of the martyrs.

“It would be morally wrong to keep an award from a government that does not seem to be heeding the concerns of the people about the controversial Bill,” Mr. Sharma said.

The Bill seeks to fast-track the process of granting citizenship to non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who came to India till December 31, 2014, allegedly because of religious persecution.

Mr. Sharma had bagged several national awards for iconic films such as ‘Imagi Ningthem’ (My Precious Son, 1981), ‘Ishanou’, and ‘Sangai – The Dancing Deer’ in more than 40 years of experimenting with the medium. He is credited with having revolutionised cinema in Manipur during the 1970s.

Manipur has been on the boil for more than a fortnight because of the opposition to the Citizenship Bill. State’s Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nongthombam Biren Singh had a few days ago appealed to the Centre that Manipur be exempted from the purview of the Bill.

Meanwhile, Meghalaya Chief Minister and National People’s Party leader Conrad K. Sangma said that a delegation of leaders representing various political parties in the Northeast met Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Saturday.

“We expressed the concerns of the people of the Northeast about the Bill. He said that he is taking the sentiments of the people of the region into consideration and will consult organisations, political parties, Chief Ministers of the north-eastern States on this. He said the Bill is important at the national level, but a decision would be taken after consultations with all the stakeholders in the Northeast,” Mr. Sangma said on Sunday.

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