As the country's cultural icons trained their guns at the Centre, giving up awards and speaking out against atrocities and censorships, an irate Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday stuck by his earlier statement that the protests gripping the nation were a carefully planned, political campaign to derail the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government.
"There is no such climate in the country that the central government should be held responsible for," Jaitley told reporters. "If some unfortunate incidents have happened in some states, it's extremely shameful and the lawbreakers should be punished. But this is a disproportionate political reaction. How many of them spoke up in last 10 years when there were scams worth lakhs and crore? I have already called it a manufactured rebellion, I stand by my phrase. I think the events as they are unfolding only indicates that the manufacturing is now at a faster speed," he said.
Jaitley's comments came as Indian scientist PM Bhargava said he will return his Padma Bhushan to protests against a climate of intolerance sweeping the nation.
"As a scientist, returning the award is the only thing I can do and that's what I have done," Bhargava told Times Now. He accused the government of dictating what people "should eat, wear and do" and said he did not "like these restrictions".
"The government's stance towards Dalits and minorities I find shocking," he said.
Bhargava, 87, the founder-director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), said he will meet the home secretary and give back his award, reported IANS.
Jaitley, earlier this month, put up a Facebook post titled 'A Manufactured Revolt – Politics By Other Means' alleging that the writers across the country returning their Sahitya Akademi Awards to protest curbs on free speech were the recipients of past patronage and trying to create a crisis for the present government.
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"The new strategy of anti–Modi, anti–BJP sections appears to be to resort to politics by other means. The easiest way is to manufacture a crisis and subsequently manufacture a paper rebellion against the Government in the wake of a manufactured crisis," he wrote.
Bhargava's move comes hours after a group of filmamkers returned their National Awards to rally around the striking students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) protesting a political appointment for the respected film body. Dibakar Banerjee, Anand Patwardhan, Paresh Kamdar, Harshavardhan Kulkarni, Hari Nair, Rakesh Sharma, Indraneel Lahiri and Lipika Singh Darai are among those who returned their awards yesterday.
Banerjee said their decision stemmed out of the alleged apathy displayed by the government in addressing the issues of the students of FTII.
"I am not here out of anger, outrage. Those emotions have long been exhausted. I am here to draw attention. Returning my very first National Award which I received for 'Khosla Ka Ghosla' is not easy. It was my first film and for many my most loved," Banerjee, who won his National Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi in 2006 for 'Khosla Ka Ghosla', said.
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