Eminent space scientist G Madhavan Nair on Thursday disapproved the return of awards by scientists and writers and called their action a mere “show”.
Around 40 writers and 12 filmmakers have returned their state awards in protest against the “growing intolerance in the country” and the murders of Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner MM Kalburgi and anti-superstition activists Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare.
The lynching of a 55-year-old Muslim man, Mohammad Ikhlaq, by a mob in Bisada village of Uttar Pradesh last month following rumours that he slaughtered a calf triggered a wave of protests against attacks on freedom of choice.
Nair, the former chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said in a large country like India, “a few incidents can happen” for which the government of the day “cannot” be held responsible.
He expressed the view that awards are mostly given to people for their life-time achievements and “you cannot belittle that (by returning them). The individuals should be proud that the nation has honoured them and that (award) stays with them until they leave this world.”
Returning the award neither helps the government nor the individual, he told PTI.
“There could be some political agenda (in returning the awards). It cannot be ruled out. There is always some people following some philosophy or the other. There could be some political motives also behind that,” Nair claimed, responding to a question on timing of their move.
“I think this whole issue is being over-hyped in the sense that in a large country like India there could be some incidents happening at some place or the other which may not be liked by most of the people,” said Nair, a Padma Vibhushan awardee.
“But because of the large publicity through electronic media and also through social media, it spreads like wildfire.
Matured people like scientists and writers should not react like this; they should respond constructively.
“If there are some elements who are not falling in line with societal norms and misbehaving, we should make them aware and bring them back to the mainstream rather than making a show out of the whole thing,” Nair said.
Maintaining that the action of returning awards “only creates news for one day” and serves no purpose, the renowned scientist said what one could do is to talk to the “concerned people”, convince them and bring them back to “normal stream”.
“And then we can say we have done something for the society. We have to be pro-active and take corrective action rather that making such....I will say it’s only a show.”
Asked whether it would be unfair to blame the government for incidents of alleged intolerance, Nair said, “Yes. Certainly. The government’s hands are certainly more than full. They are talking about development of the country and improving the plight of the common people. It’s a very tough job”.