In an age of labels and quick fix terms that stick in the mind — the WhatsApp and SMS lingo of today — it is being termed as ‘awards wapsi’, a spin off from the ‘ghar wapsi’ programmes.
The wapsi movement is closer to home now than ever. Even as you read this, there is debate and discussion about 10 filmmakers, including Dibakar Banerjee and Anand Patwardhan, returning their national awards in support of the FTII students. Overall though, it is also a validation of growing disenchantment with the closing of doors and minds. The filmmakers are talking about a culture of fear, repression and intimidation shrinking the creative canvas.
The movement has now got fresh support, however, not from another strand of artistes or writers, but from scientists. Those of hard-nosed scientific temper — pushing for a spirit of inquiry and reform — are now in the protesting corner.
Reports state that more than 100 of them have signed an online petition expressing alarm at growing intolerance in the country. The recent killing of rationalists, of course, has been cited by several of them. Many have stated that it is time to join the nationwide passive, but significant protest that is gaining momentum. The BJP ministers have hit out against those returning awards claiming they are playing politics and are anti-BJP elements. Yet, these are not enough. There may be some seeking publicity or with herd-mentality in the protests, but it cannot be swept under the carpet.
Dialogue with the dissenters, (those who returned the awards, some of them, if not all), introspection by the government, statements of reassurance by the PM — who has been disappointingly silent on the issue — is vital. If a government can’t feel the pulse of the people, it is alienating itself from them. Let there be a serious effort to change the climate, beginning with Modi, always so eloquent overseas. Let people feel they have a chance at both, development and the right to dissent, without fear of repercussions.