New Delhi: Prominent film director Dibakar Banerjee and nine other film personalities have decided to return their National Awards in support of agitation launched by FTII students against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute's chairman.
They have also cited killings of writers MM Kalburgi and Govind Pansare and the "threat to diversity and freedom of speech" for the reason to return their awards.
Other than Dibakar Banerjee, others who have decided to return the awards include Paresh Kamdar, Lipika Singh, Ishtha Jain, Anand Patwardhan, Kirti Nakhwa, Harsh Kulkarni and Hari Nair.
"Government must reveal its commitment to protect freedom of expression," said the filmmakers while addressing a press conference in Mumbai.
Anand Patwardhan said: "We are disenchanted with what is happening in the country."
Earlier in the day, three prominent FTII alumni decided to return their National Awards in protest against what they termed "an atmosphere of intolerance" in the country in the past few months.
Vikrant Pawar of Maharashtra, Rakesh Shukla of Uttar Pradesh and Prateek Vats of Goa are the three alumni who will return their awards.
The decision came shortly after students of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) announced that they would return to classes after a 139-day long strike, but would continue their agitation peacefully to protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute's chairman.
Pawar had bagged the President's Gold Medal for his film "Kaatal" in the Best Short Fiction category in 2012; Shukla won the Special Mention Award at the National Students Film Festival in 2013 for his film "Donkey Fair"; and Vats bagged the Rajat Kamal Award for Best Short Fiction for his film "Kal, 15 Aughust, Dukan Band Rahegi" in 2010.
Pawar said that now the issue has "gone beyond FTII" and is affecting the entire education system in the country, right from the primary school levels, which is being changed without taking into account aspects that concern society at large.
The trio of Pawar, Shukla and Vats joins the long list of various scholars, intellectuals, writers, artistes and others who have returned various National Awards and honours across the country in the past few days.
(With inputs from agencies)