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CBFC Wants To Beep Out 'Cow', Among Other Words, From Amartya Sen Documentary

Muzzled.

12/07/2017 12:10 PM IST | Updated 12/07/2017 12:18 PM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in India doesn't approve of loaded words like 'intercourse'. This we all know, thanks to the recent controversy over the deletion of the word from Imtiaz Ali's When Harry Met Sejal. Now the board has added several other words and phrases to its ever-growing list of forbidden vocabulary, namely 'cow', 'Gujarat', 'Hindu India', 'Hindutva view of India' and so forth.

A report in The Telegraph this morning mentions economist and filmmaker Suman Ghosh's run-in with CBFC over cuts suggested to his documentary based on Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen's life.

The Argumentative Indian, based on the title of one of Sen's most widely acclaimed books, is an hourlong take on his long and illustrious life, based on fresh interviews with him and existing footage. The film was screened privately at Nandan III in Kolkata, in the presence of academic and politician Sugata Bose, after which Sen took questions on intolerance.

Trouble began when it was shown to the board at its Kolkata office in Esplanade, after which CBFC agreed to certify it U/A, conditional on the suggested cuts. In several parts in the documentary, which was shot in two parts in 2002 and 2017, Sen speaks about cow vigilantism, Hindutva politics, the distortion of a grand vision of India by the party in power at the Centre and of "criminalities" in Gujarat. The documentary also focuses on Sen's views on Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential elections and the rise of trolls on social media platforms.

That the CBFC wants to beep out these words and phrases is proof of the breakdown of democracy Sen has repeatedly expressed fears of. Ghosh is, however, unwilling to surrender to any compromises. Pandering to such demands not only reinforces the atmosphere of censorship and suppression prevailing over the country but also goes against the spirit of the movie's theme as well as the belief system held and propagated by its subject, he said.

Always an outspoken critic of communalism and political parties that try to curb freedom of expression, Sen has recently made remarks critical of the imposition on Hindi across the country. While admitting the BJP's tactical strength, especially the way it played its cards in the upcoming presidential elections, Sen has expressed concerns over the communal riots in Basirhat, West Bengal.

Earlier he had condemned the government's move to demonetise high-value currencies last year. Naturally, the comment didn't go down well with the present dispensation.

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