Citizenship bill:Manipuri director to return Padma Shri

Aribam Shyam Sharma in Imphal, Manipur capital on Sunday. (DH Photo)

Renowned film-director from Manipur, Aribam Shyam Sharma on Sunday announced that he would return the Padma Shri award bestowed on him in 2006, as a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The decision comes amid agitation by civil society organisations in Manipur and a meeting of at least 11 regional parties from the Northeast with union home minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi opposing the bill.

The 83-year-old director and music composer, whose films had bagged several national film awards, is considered a legend, who put Manipuri films on the world stage.

Manipur chief minister and BJP leader N Biren Singh had earlier moved the Centre with a plea that the state be exempted from the purview of the bill. He cited apprehension among people that the state could be “flooded with foreigners” if the bill is passed.

Representatives of 11-parties, led by Meghalaya chief minister and president of National People’s Party (NPP) Conrad K Sangma met home minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi. “During the meeting, we expressed the concerns of the people of the Northeast against the bill. He mentioned that he is taking all sentiments of the people of the region in mind and so will consult organisations, political parties, Chief Ministers of the Northeastern states on this. Whatever decision is taken will be made only after consultation with all stakeholders in the Northeast. Our opposition and efforts will continue to ensure that the government does not go ahead with this particular bill,” Sangma said after the meeting.

The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955 to allow minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan such as Hindus, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Sikhs, who had migrated to India due to persecution, to apply for citizenship after a stay of six years. Organisations in the Northeast, however, are against it, fearing that it would reduce the indigenous people into minorities by making “a large number of illegal migrants” already living in the region Indian citizens.

The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on January 8 amid strong protests in the Northeast but remained pending in the Rajya Sabha. It was likely to be listed in the Rajya Sabha’s list of business on Saturday but was done so, ostensibly due to the protests by its allies including JD (United), Shiv Sena and Akali Dal.

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