Protesting ‘dark times’, filmmaker Bharatiya returns National Award

Shillong: Filmmaker Tarun Bharatiya, who won the National Award for Best Editing Non Fiction for “In Camera – Diaries of a documentary cameraman” in 2009, on Thursday returned his Rajat Kamal to President Pranab Mukherjee in protest against the “dark times” the country was facing.

“Times are truly dark and one must be honest to say this darkness was in the making for long: it hasn’t descended suddenly upon us. There was unease in me even when I took the award – the Rajat Kamal – in 2009,” Bharatiya said in his letter to Mukherjee.

“The destruction of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat genocide are not the only sores that plague this republic. In Kashmir, the bullets never stop, the northeast too is an army zone with draconian AFSPA, the State is waging a war against the people in Chhattisgarh,” he said.

Expressing concern with the everyday assault on democratic rights and people’s livelihoods, theft of their resources, the unrelenting violence on Muslims, Dalits, and Christians, Bharatiya said: “One cannot escape the realisation that one is part of a nation-state that has turned against its own people, and is now rapidly moving to become a Hindutva Reich.”

“These are not aberrations of Indian democracy but are being institutionalised into a vision of India supping from the chalice of majoritarian views and opinions,” he said.

Bharatiya said he “can be blamed for waking up too late to these times”.

“Perhaps I was naive to think that the kinds of film I make, edit, shoot, or direct and the nature of the dissenting politics I have been actively involved in are challenges enough to the nationalist consensus of this and previous governments.

“This can no longer be an excuse to hold on to a recognition from the Indian state which on a daily basis makes it clear that dissenting ideas, politics, lifestyles, food choices, choices of whom to love, how to be, will have to be forcibly marshalled into a narrow mainstream. I refuse to be part of any mainstream identity,” he said.