New Delhi: Mumbai-born music maestro Zubin Mehta on Friday said he failed to understand why artists, writers filmmakers and other intellectuals were returning their state awards, while suggesting that those protesting against the government should engage in a "dialogue" with it.
"Intellectuals are going ahead and giving back awards whether they are writers or filmmakers. They must feel very strongly and I respect them for what they are doing. On the other hand, I read what the government ministers are saying. I think both parties should meet together and talk about their grievances," he said.
The renowned conductor is here as part of the final leg of the debut India tour of the Australian World Orchestra (AWO), that recently wrapped up performances in Mumbai and Chennai.
Mehta is performing in the city after a gap of 10 years.
Referring to the slew of protests by writers, artists, filmmakers, historians, academics and scholars against the "rising intolerance" in the country, the world-renowned musician said he came to know about it only through news reports.
"I don't live here and I have not been through this entire process day by day. I read about it about for last five or six days in the paper. I wish I could talk to one of them for them to explain it to me, because it is a major movement which is going on right now," he said.
At least 36 writers had returned their Sahitya Akademi awards following which a group of authors had staged a silent march with black gags and armbands here recently in protest against the Akademi's reluctance to strongly condemn incidents of killings of writers and rationalists like MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar. The Akademi later condemned the killing in a resolution passed in a emergency meet.
"People were walking with black bands on their mouths and so on. I wish I could talk to them, this is not to argue with them but to hear their point of view," he said.
The maestro who was conferred in 1966 with the Padma Bhushan and in 2001 with the Padma Vibhushan noted that there was no "communication" between the protesters and government.