Twenty-four film personalities on Thursday joined the protest by artists, academic and intellectuals against growing intolerance in the country, by deciding to return their national awards. In a joint statement addressed to the president and prime minister, they said they are returning their national awards as a "symbolic gesture", urging the government to “pay attention to our fears, that the warp and weft of our robust democracy might be coming apart in the current atmosphere.”
The statement said, “We carry a sense of hurt and outrage at the events unfolding around us. We are concerned citizens of this country, whose work has been recognised by the Government of India. That is a great honour for us, and in returning this award, we are not rejecting the recognition that the jury has bestowed on us. Neither are we belittling the honour given to us by the people of our country in the form of the National Award.”
Along with Shah and Mirza, the letter was signed by Virendra Saini, Arundhati Roy, Ranjan Palit, Tapan Bose, Shriprakash, Sanjay Kak, Pradip Krishen, Tarun Bhartiya, Amitabh Chakraborty, Madhusree Dutta, Anwar Jamal, Ajay Raina, Irene Dhar Malik, PM Satheesh, Satya Rai Nagpaul, Manoj Lobo, Rafeeq Ellias, Sudheer Palsane, Vivek Sachidanand, Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti, Dr Manoj Nitharwal and Abhimanyu Dange.
Last week, 12 other filmmakers had announced that they are returning their national awards after students of the Film and Television Institute of India withdrew their strike against the government after four months of protest. Actor and Bharatiya Janata Party MP Hema Malini on Thursday condemned the filmmakers returning their awards, calling it a cheap stunt. She told The Indian Express, "It is deplorable. Rejecting an honour that has been bestowed upon you by the nation is not right. It’s not acceptable."