"I am returning the Padma Shri award given to me by the government of India in solidarity to the voice of the people of the North East and Manipur who has been vociferously opposing the citizenship Bill." These are not words you hear regularly but are certainly loud enough to cause an uproar. On Sunday, Manipuri filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma returned his Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, as a mark of protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. The filmmaker is known for critically acclaimed films like Leipalei, Ishanou, and Imagi Ningthem. He was honoured with the Padma Shri in 2006.
"The Bill is against the interest of the people of North-East and the indigenous people of Manipur. Several people here (Manipur) have opposed the Bill, but it seems they (the Central government) are determined to pass it," Sharma told IANS. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 aims to change the Citizenship Act, 1955 and grant Indian citizenship to those who came from countries like Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan before 31st December 2014. This has also lead to protests in various North-Eastern state.
"There is no protection for people of the valley (Manipur). If more people will come, then they (the indigenous people) will vanish in the valley or hills. What's the point of having culture, if there are no indigenous people? Manipuris' future will be all diluted. Northeast is becoming a dumping ground," the filmmaker further added.