India’s film censors have ordered the creation of a documentary about the economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen be altered to remove words, including “Hindu”, “India” and “cow”, the director has said.
Suman Ghosh said that he was informed by the censor board officials on Monday that his one-hour documentary about Sen, Harvard professor and essayist, could be released only if certain words were bleeped out.
Those words reportedly included “cow”, “India Hindu”, “Hindutva” – a reference to the religious nationalist ideology of the Indian ruling party, and “Gujarat”, the state of residence of the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi.
“I was very disturbed,” Ghosh told NDTV of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) the decision, against which he said would be attractive. “I was surprised, but I thought, I have to discuss.”
Sen has declined to comment, saying only: “If the government has any kind of reservations, there can be no dialogue”.
In the documentary, named after his book of essays The Argumentative Indian, Sen criticizes what he sees as the “restricted vision” of India adopted by Modi’s right-wing nationalist party. The manifesto of the ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeks to redefine the Indian culture and institutions as inherently Indian in nature, in contrast with the pluralistic view of the first leaders.
In one supposedly censored scene, Sen lauds the value of a vigorous discussion and debate, in contrast to “punish people for having mistreated a cow or something like that”.
India’s censorship board in disarray amid claims of political interference
India has recently experienced an increase in deadly mob attacks on the cattle, meat traders, consumers and producers of milk, with most of the attacks waged by so-called cow vigilant of fringe Hindu groups, targeting Muslims. Cows are considered sacred by many of the members of the India, of Hindu majority, and killing cows or eating beef is illegal or restricted in much of the country.
As the Indian film industry has developed, taking on more challenging themes, clashes with censorship has become more prominent. This week the decision was the latest to draw accusations of political bias, especially since the appointment of a staunch Modi supporter, Pahlaj Nihalani as censor-in-chief two years ago.
The producers of An Insignificant Man, a documentary about the Delhi, the chief minister and a bitter Modi critic Arvind Kejriwal, say they have been ordered by the censors to ensure the approval of the prime minister’s office before your movie can be released.
The censor board has not only been accused of political bias. Nihalani has also voiced their objections to the representations of the homosexuality in the cinema and once tried to issue a list of swear words I wanted forbidden.
In January, the censorship board refused to classify a Hindi movie, lipstick on My Burqa, arguing that its content was too “lady-oriented”, and audio content of the pornography. The film, which explores sexuality and the struggles of four women in a small town in India, was later released on appeal.
The producers of the film, Udta Punjab, about the epidemic of drug abuse in the ownership of a state of India, last year, was ordered to perform more than 90 changes – including any reference to Punjab. The Bombay high Court later overturned the decision of the board.
Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal and fierce political opponent of Modi, tweeted that the treatment of the Senna documentary reflects a broader climate of increasing censorship in the country. “Every voice of opposition muzzled. Now, Dr. Amartya Sen,” she said.
If someone of his stature can not freely express themselves, what hope does the common citizen have 2/2
On the 12th of July 2017
In June, the prominent Indian journalists warned of an attack on the freedom of speech after anti-corruption investigators raided the premises of the founder of NDTV, a liberal-leaning news channel that is among the most critical of the government of Modi.
The CBFC has been asked by the comment.