Indian filmmakers return awards in protest at 'intolerance'

Image source, AP
Image caption, The killing of scholar and writer Malleshappa Kalburgi is cited by those saying freedom of speech is under threat in India (file image)

A group of 10 Indian filmmakers has returned national awards in protest at what they say is a rising climate of intolerance.

The group, including prominent directors Dibakar Banerjee and Anant Patwardhan, made the announcement at a press conference in Mumbai.

They demanded the government "reveal its commitment to protect freedom of expression," the NDTV channel reported.

Several writers have also returned awards in protest in recent weeks.

They point to the killings of rationalists such as Malleshappa Kalburgi and Govind Pansare this year as evidence that there is a growing assault on free speech in India.

"Murders of rationalists are not random acts of violence. People being murdered for their beliefs and opinions. If we don't protest now, we're in danger of being part of flattening diversity," the filmmakers said.

The filmmakers' action was also reported as being in support of a strike by students of the Film and Television Institute of India at the appointment of actor Gajendra Chauhan, a supporter of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as the institute's chairman.

The BJP's critics say it has not done enough to counter extremists and protect freedom of expression.

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