NEW DELHI: The BJP on Friday said it was up to film star Dilip Kumar to decide whether or not to return the Nishaan-e-Pakistan award bestowed on him by Pakistan.
Refusing to be drawn into the controversy, party general secretary Narendra Modi said, “It is best left to the wisdom of Dilip Kumar.”
On his part, Dilip Kumar said that he could sacrifice anything for India. The thespian, who flew in here from Mumbai, where the Shiv Sena and others have demanded that the return of the Nishaan-e-Pakistan award, said he hoped to meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Saturday to seek his guidance on the issue.
“What is an award? All that one possesses can be laid down for one’s country and its prestige, anything can be sacrificed,” he told reporters. Upset over the manner in which he was being pressurised, Dilip Kumar said, “Such a big noise is being made for such a small thing. Some kind of a circus is going on. Our young jawans are dying in Kargil. Can the politicians do something for them?” he asked.
Our staff reporter from Mumbai adds: Dilip Kumar’s wife, Saira Banoo, said in Mumbai she saw no reason why the actor should return the award, which is Pakistan’s highest civilian award. “The award was given to the actor for excellence in the field of art, for his contribution to social work and community service and for spreading peace and harmony among people cutting across religious and ethnic differences. What has the conflict in Kargil got to do with this? How is it different from any of the other awards given to him by other nations?” she asked.
Responding to the Shiv Sena’s demands that Dilip Kumar return the award to “prove he is a true Indian,” Saira Banoo said, “He ‘accepted the award after consulting both Mr Vajpayee and the President. We have been living here all our lives. Why do we have to prove we are Indians just because we are born Muslims? Do any other communities have to prove their loyalty? He is being targetted only because of his religion.”
She felt that the issue was being given a communal colour to divert attention from the failure of politicians to solve the problem. “This harassment has also wasted a lot of my time, which would otherwise be used to do constructive social work,” Saira Banoo said.