GUWAHATI: The film fraternity in the region has backed the decision of legendary Manipuri filmmaker Aribam Shyam Sharma to return his Padma Shri award in protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill.

Filmmakers from the region said that they too oppose the bill, which proposes to grant citizenship along religious lines.

Haobam Paban Kumar, a multiple National Award winning filmmaker of international repute from Manipur, termed it painful.

“Definitely, I support his cause. I think every northeasterner will support this. We have faced it for a long time. If it’s for the other parts of the country, it’s fine. But for northeast India, it’s absolutely no. It’s his personal decision. I think he is very hurt at whatever is going on,” Kumar, who is also working on a documentary on Sharma, told The Citizen.

It was on Sunday that Sharma, one of the living legends of the region's cinema and the only Indian to win the top annual award of France’s Three Continents Festival, the Golden Montgolfiere in 1982, announced he would be returning his Padma Shri as a mark of protest.

The Citizenship Amendment Bill which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha has drawn criticism and widespread opposition in all the northeastern states. Groups and organisations here don’t support the logic of granting citizenship on the grounds of religion.

Deep Choudhury, a National Award winning filmmaker from Assam, hoped that Sharma’s sacrifice would not go in vain.

“It's sad for an artist to refuse this recognition for his lifelong contribution to society… But for one’s motherland, it can be done again and again. Salute to you Aribam Shyam Sharma! I hope your sacrifice will not go in vain,” said Choudhury, who won the Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director for the film Alifa and is also secretary of North East Filmmakers' Forum.

Film researcher and author Parthajit Baruah said that Sharma is a very down to earth person and a politically conscious filmmaker.

“See, he is not against any government, but what compelled him to do so is the prevailing scenario. It indicates his angst, that he is not happy with what is happening around us. And he has done what he felt, and he wants to live in a peaceful environment with harmony,” Baruah, the author ofFace to Face: The Cinemas of Adoor Gopalakrishnan told The Citizen.

Dominic Sangma, one of the most promising filmmakers of the region from Meghalaya, also termed the situation unfortunate.

“It is unfortunate that Sir Aribam Shyam Sharma had to take this step to highlight the damage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. We all know that if CAB is passed we will be an endangered species in our own home. If our so called representatives or political leaders pause only for a moment in their pursuit of power and think beyond their personal gain, and do what they’re supposed to do, then Aribam Sir will do what he does best: making films,” said Sangma.