GUWAHATI: Legendary filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma of Manipur has decided to return the Padma Shri conferred on him in 2006 as a mark of protest against the Centre’s move to get the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, passed in Parliament to grant Indian citizenship to immigrants belonging to six persecuted non-Muslim communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Sharma, who announced his decision on Sunday, is likely to return the award on Monday. Manipur has seen a series of protests, staged by various organisations, against the Bill in the past few days.
“I will return this honour as a mark of protest against Citizenship Bill. The people of Northeast, Manipur in particular, do not have any protection and there is a fear that indigenous population will be wiped out if the Bill is passed,” he told this correspondent over the phone from Manipur capital Imphal.
He continued in the same vein: “There is no future for us. The Bill is against democratic norms. The population of Manipur is less than that of a district in Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal. Given the protests, there must be some reconsideration if we want a united and prosperous India”.
The octogenarian filmmaker said he had no doubt the Centre would try to get the Bill passed in Rajya Sabha.
“Until a few days ago, I thought government may not go ahead with the Bill given the widespread protests against it. Then, President (Ram Nath Kovind) made a statement endorsing it. Yesterday (Saturday), Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a request to West Bengal Chief Minister (Mamata Banerjee) seeking her help to get the Bill passed in Rajya Sabha. So, I have no doubt the government will go ahead with the Bill,” Sharma said.
Who is Aribam Syam Sharma
The filmmaker and composer made his debut in Manipuri cinema as an actor in the movie “Matamgi Manipur”. He directed his first movie “Lamja Parshuram” in 1974 which was the first Manipuri film to run for 100 days in box office. His “Olangthagee Wangmadasu”, made in 1980, is the only Manipuri film to run for more than 25 weeks. With 14 feature films and 31 non-feature films to his kitty, the 82-year-old is credited with bringing Manipuri cinema on the world stage.