NEW DELHI: Filmmaker Saeed Mirza was amongst 24 others---Kundan ShahArundhati Roy Satya Rai Nagpaul, Madhushree Dutta, Sanjay Kak and Ajay Raina---to return his national award in protest against growing intolerance. Mirza was the chairperson of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune earlier before the controversial Gajendra Chauhan.

In an interview to The Citizen Mirza shared the reasons that prompted him to return his “only national award”:

Q. Let us begin with the basic, why did you return the award?

A. There are so many reasons, where do I begin? Perhaps because of the tiredness of my soul. I have been seeing the onslaught on our Constitution of India for such a long time now. This time there is a new breed with incredible conviction in the reading and reinterpretation of both our history and the Constitution, that holds the Constitution in complete contempt. It is another vicious political philosophy that has emerged and I find this very frightening.

Q. So it has been happening for a while now, and is not just recent?

A. Things have happened in the past of course. But this time this is a new phenomenon, the emergence of another philosophy that has come out from the darkness into the sunlight. This particular change is deeply frightening and deeply disturbing.

Q. Do you think this spate of protest, with so many awards being returned, will make a difference?

A. I don’t know if it is going to make a difference. There is this rigidity of the mindset that sees the world in its own colours, so really don’t know if all this will impact and make a difference. But then only 31 per cent of the people voted for this government, 69 per cent did not. So they are not on some kind of juggernaut that cannot be stopped. And to stop them we have to fight them politically, it will be a rough ride of course.

Q. Why do you say a rough ride?

A. It is because of their mindset, this rigid perception of the past and future, to the point of fascism. Why to the point, it is already fascist. It speaks in so many tongues, It starts from vikas (development) and goes to the cow, it moves to reservations and then goes to the Muslims. It all flies in the face of the idea of India.

Q. But do you think there is a fight back, a resistance that is growing?

A. It is starting. What kind of India do the people want. It is a battle for the spirit and soul of India. To regain our humanity that is being bludgeoned over the years, our sense of compassion, inclusiveness, our respect for dignity.