New Delhi: Joing the rank of dissenting voices, Dastangoi artiste Murtaza Danish Husaini on Monday said he is returning the Sangeet Natak Akademi award as it is becoming "increasingly difficult" to speak up in public places without being "harangued".
After Maya Krishna Rao, he is the second performing artiste to return the award from the national academy of music, dance and drama.
Over the past few weeks at least 34 writers have handed over their Sahitya Akademi awards in the aftermath of the killing of Kannada writer M M Kalburgi and Dadri lynching incident, among other issue.
"There is a growing atmosphere of intolerance, it is becoming increasingly difficult to speak up in public places without being harangued," Husaini said.
The 44-year-old artist, who received the Akademi's Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in 2010 jointly with Mahmood Farooqui for Dastangoi, a folk narrative of Uttar Pradesh, said, by returning the award he was not going to "relinquish the public space" but "reclaiming his voice" in public debate.
Stating that many writers had received flak for their decision to return awards, Husaini said, "People may find a hundred reasons to criticise but if one can freely go around mouthing venom and lynching people then one can surely freely and gracefully return their awards."
The artiste thanked writers like Uday Prakash and others who chose to not remain silent.
"I can't recall any movement in my lifetime where so many writers, poets, thinkers, artists have returned their recognition en masse. And if this government thinks this is not significant, then they have no idea what they're heading for," Husaini said.
The artiste said he was enthused to emulate the writers who had handed over their awards. "When the first writers were returning their awards it didn't even strike me that I also have an award, and I thought maybe I am too inconsequential and insignificant to make a dent.
"Then it occurred to me that perhaps this is how most of us think - we choose to remain silent and relinquish the public space, and allow the loudest and harshest voices to usurp it," he said.