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Sanjay Kak On Why He Has Returned His National Awards

Director of the pathbreaking documentaries such as, Red Ant Dream/Mati Ke LaalJashn-e-Azadi: How We Celebrate FreedomIn the Forest Hangs a Bridge, and Geeli Meetti, Sanjay Kak has returned the National Awards that he had won for his documentaries In the forest hangs a bridge in 1999 and Geeli Mitti in 1984. He has issued a statement citing his reasons for returning the same.

Here’s the full statement:

With the recent return of awards that have been given to them by the State a range of writers, poets, scholars, artists and filmmakers have deployed their visibility – and credibility – to articulate the growing anxiety of a vast number of Indians, those who may remain less visible but are no less perturbed at what is going on around them. In raising their voices through this symbolic act these Indians have simply done what their work enjoins them to do: join the dots, make the connections, and help us to understand what the meaning of seemingly unconnected incidents may be. It is unnecessary to repeat here the widespread fears triggered by the growing air of majoritarian menace that surrounds us, especially for those the self-appointed majority considers marginal – Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Adivasis. This cancerous fog threatens everything that makes India a place of plurality and difference. Already people have been assassinated for a disagreement with their views. And now with the lynching in Dadri of Mohammad Akhlak, even on a suspicion of what the food in their refrigerator might be. This fog affects everything: which is why the brave and historic strike by the students of the Film & Television Institute of India has revealed in all its starkness the systematic manner in which educational and research institutions are being bludgeoned under this Government. The disregard with which the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has dealt with this already enfeebled institution of national importance is very much a part of a hurried attempt to foist a narrow, reactionary and regressive ideology on us all. The ruling dispensation must be told that this will be resisted, for their view of the world does not truly belong to this land. Through this past year the deathly silence of the Government of India has been broken only to justify or condone these tragic developments, or to trivialise them. Faced with the unprecedented upsurge in public opinion represented by the return of awards, they are now suggesting that this is all part of a well thought out conspiracy. The villain is that old shadow –enemies of the people.  In solidarity with these protests, and in particular to protest at the way the students of the FTII have been treated, I too join my fellow filmmakers in returning the two national awards that I have received. My own belief in the sanctity and meaning of these honours is moderated by the fact that for filmmakers to be even eligible for the National Awards our work must have first been passed by the censors, a colonial era mechanism that has not significantly changed in its essential purpose. No surprise then that this circumscribes the universe of issues on which films can be made if they are to be even acknowledged by the State, let alone be honoured by it. Thankfully an entire ecosystem of filmmaking and viewing has mushroomed autonomously, and well below the all seeing gaze of the State, which is why we can continue to contemplate making films that carry question about the holy cows of our time – the sanctity of the nation state, and issues of sexuality and difference, to take just two. The writers, poets, scholars, artists and filmmakers who have raised their voices in protest are being accused of playing politics. Now is the time for them to acknowledge that they are – and this is not an accident, it is what the times are forcing upon all of us. Our politics must now include rising in defence of our right to an India different from the one being pushed down our throats by this Government and it’s storm-troopers.

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