[Mushtaque Karimi, Inquilab reporter in Jalgaon, addressing the seminar on 'Two Hundred Years of Urdu Journalism' held at Urdu Media Centre in Malegaon on November 16, 2015 (ummid.com photo)]
Malegaon: Led by a 85-year-old journalist, three senior most scribes in Malegaon - the Muslim dominated power loom city in North Maharashtra, on Monday returned the Maharashtra Urdu Academy Awards conferred on them to protest against rising intolerance and violence against the downtrodden and minorities in India.
Along with their awards, 85-year-old Haroon BA, Hasan Farooqui and Abdul Haleem Siddiqui also returned the cash prizes handed over to them by the Maharashtra Urdu Academy to recognise their services in the field of journalism.
Incidentally, Haroon BA, senior most journalist of Malegaon and Founder-Editor of Weekly Bebak, chose to return his two awards on the day which coincided with his 85th birthday.
"A birthday is a special day for any person. But, today because of the prevailing condition in the country, I have decided not to celebrate this special day of my life", he said while talking to ummid.com.
"Instead, I am returning on this day the two awards conferred on me by the Maharashtra State Urdu Sahitya Academy hoping that the government will at least now realise the pain and anguish people are going through in the country", he added.
In a letter addressed to the Maharashtra State Urdu Sahitya Academy, Haroon BA accused the government of being bias against the downtrodden and minorities, especially the Muslims, and working on the agenda set by the RSS.
He also cited Amit Shah's infamous 'crackers will be burst in Pakistan' remark, ban on beef, killing of Mohammad Ahlaque in Dadri, attempt to impose Uniform Civil Code and appointement of Chaouhan as FTII Chairman as examples of rising intolerance in the country.
Abdul Haleem Siddiqui, Editor of weekly Bedari, while returning the award said the journalists in Malegaon cannot remain silent when the secular fabric of the country is ruined.
"The Muslims have sacrificed their life for this country, and the nation. How can we remain mute spectators when the very foundation of the this beutiful nation is shaking", he said.
Siddiqui also questioned the silence of the government when the death anniversary of Nathuram Godse, who was hanged for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, was celebrated as 'Balidaan Diwas'.
Invoking the life of Biblic Prophet Ibrahim, and Tipu Sultan Shaheed and Moulvi Baaqir, Haleem Siddiqui said: "I would like to be remembered like the small little bird who scooped up few drops of water in her tiny beak when Prophet Ibrahim was thrown in the heart of fire."
Tipu Sultan Shaheed, described as Lion of Mysore, died fighting with the British forces whereas Moulvi Baaqir, a renowned Urdu journalist in 1857, was blown up with a canon by the British military in Delhi.
Hasan Farooqui, who retired as principal of a local school, also returned the Maharashtra Urdu Academy award expressing concern over the prevailing situation in the country. Besides, his contribution in the filed of journalis, Farooqui was awarded for the services he rendered in the field of education.
Haroon BA, Siddiqui and Farooqui also led a silent march and observed two-minute silence in front of the statue of Dr. Ambedkar to condole the death of Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and others.
Before that they announced their decision to return award at a seminar titled 'Two Hundred Years of Urdu Journalism' held at Urdu Media Centre. The program was organised on the occasion of National Press Day.
Among other local journalists, the three were also accompanied by Mushtaque Karimi - Jalgaon reporter of Urdu daily Inquilab published from Mumbai. Mushtaque Karimi had also returned his award two months back expressing similiar concerns.
So far more than fifty scholars, writers, academics, filmmakers and others have returned their awards, alleging that intolerance has been rampant in the country ever since Modi became prime minister of India.