War of Words Over Return of Awards in Protest Against Intolerance

Published: 29th October 2015 08:43 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th October 2015 08:43 PM   |  A+A-


PATNA/MUMBAI: The mounting protests by a section of intelligentsia against "climate of intolerance" and return of awards sparked a war of words today with the Centre claiming they are "politically motivated" and eminent writer Nayantara Sahgal saying the Modi government is "rattled".

As Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stood by his remark that the protests by writers, artists, film-makers and scientists are a "manufactured rebellion", Home Minister Rajnath Singh dubbed the protests a political conspiracy and wondered what these people were doing when communal riots took place when the Congress was in power. Jaitley also called them "rabid anti-BJP elements".

"Those returning awards are playing politics by other means. Follow their tweets and their stances on various social and political issues. You will find a lot of rabid anti-BJP elements in them," Jaitley, who also holds charge of Information and Broadcasting Ministry, told reporters. "I had already called it a manufactured rebellion. I stand by my phrase. And I think, the events as they are unfolding only indicate that kind of manufacturing is going on at faster speed," Jaitley said.

Congress leader Anand Sharma said Jaitley's "manufactured rebellion" comment reflected a mindset intolerant of criticism. Eminent scientist P M Bhargava, who announced the return of his Padma Bhushan award, dismissed allegations that his action was politically motivated and said, "Dissent is dissent and there is a specific point on which you dissent."

"I am afraid the Government is very rattled and nervous about this huge public response and is acting in the way it is and not in an intelligent way," Sahgal, niece of Jawaharlal Nehru, told reporters in Mumbai, Saghal had returned the Sahitya Akademi award in the wake of the Dadri lynching episode and several others followed suit. Sahgal said the country is anguished about what is happening to defenceless people who are being gunned down, who are having ink thrown on their faces and who are being brutally threatened. "What I want to say today is that cohesiveness is being torn apart by the idea of Hindutva. Earlier they divided us. Now they are redividing us as Hindus and others. We're not Hindus and others. We're Indians," she added.

Rajnath Singh said he could say with certainty that this (returning of awards) is happening because of political reasons. "If someone wants to protest, there are many ways to do it. If someone is given an honour which is a symbol of national pride, putting that on the line for protesting is something I fail to understand. As far as I can understand, it's happening for political reasons," he added.

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said those returning the awards are trying to tar the image of India. "They want to tar the image of Hindu also. That also seems to be their agenda," he added. BJP spokepserson G V L Narasimha Rao said those protesting have only one agenda and that is to "abuse" BJP and the Prime Minister all the time. He also dubbed Bhargava as a member of "Hate Modi brigade" and Sonia Gandhi's "cheerleader" who has rewarded by Congress governments.

Rao said the scientist is a "habitual protester" and has "strong prejudices" against BJP and the central government. Eminent space scientist G Madhavan Nair disapproved of the move to return awards and dubbied their action as a mere "show".


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