Noted Manipuri filmmaker and music composer Aribam Syam Sharma on Sunday said he was returning his Padma Shri in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, Northeast Now reported. He had got the award in 2006 for his contributions to cinema.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill seeks to amend a 1955 law to grant citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from the Muslim-majority nations of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years. Most Northeastern states have opposed the proposed legislation, and it has sparked several protests in the region.

Sharma, 83, announced his decision at a press conference in Imphal and said the people of Manipur need protection, the Hindustan Times reported. The government should respect the state and the North East, regardless of its size and population, he said.

“When the northeastern states jointly represent or present something in the government, they [the central government] should consider it and if they do not consider, naturally we have to oppose,” said Sharma. “So, as part of showing solidarity, I decided to return the award.”

Manipur witnessed several demonstrations against the bill after it was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8. Ten political parties in the region, including allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party, have also unanimously decided to oppose the bill.

A delegation of political parties from Manipur has urged Home Minister Rajnath Singh “to incorporate a safeguarding clause for the protection of the indigenous people of northeast region in general and the state of Manipur in particular in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill before its passage in Rajya Sabha”.

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh had reiterated that the state government would oppose the legislation unless there was a provision to protect the indigenous people of the North East. Biren Singh and Manipur BJP President K Bhabananda submitted the memorandum to Rajnath Singh on January 31.