By Shambhavi Saxena:
In 1930, the Berlin premier of an American film, All Quiet on the Western Front, was disrupted by smoke bombs and sneezing powder and members of the audience were beaten up. Ultimately, the film was banned for not being aligned with a particular point of view. That point of view was Joseph Goebbels’, Hitler’s right-hand man in Nazi Germany.
For the last few months, India has been under an outrageous near-totalitarian regime that has dared to drag the world largest democracy through the mud (sprinkled with cow urine, probably). And how! Upper-caste and anti-Muslim propaganda is oozing from beef bans and warnings about ‘Love Jihad’. Groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad are being allowed to soil the essence of India and the Indian constitution by debarring Muslims from certain festival spaces. Every effort is being made to corrupt the public education system and prevent people from ever raising their voices in dissent. Books have been banned and couples assaulted, and now, after all this, a student-made film about beef-eating practices in Mumbai has been hauled up by the Ministry of Propagan– sorry, I meant the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B).
Created by Ananyaa Gaur, Anurup Khillare, Atul Anand, Reetika Revathy Subramanian and Vaseem Chaudhary of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, ‘Caste on the Menu Card’ was to be screened at the 12th Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Film Festival in New Delhi. Delhiites might have been treated to this social and historical exploration of food and livelihood this Sunday, had it not been for the usual accusations against the film – that it is harmful to the religious sentiments of the very privileged, very powerful Hindu community of India.
“The Ministry had a problem with the mention of beef in the synopsis,” Atul Anand, one of the filmmakers, said. But these students are not to be deterred. In a Facebook post that followed, Anand wrote: “We are shocked and deeply upset about the turn of events. We are planning to get the film screened on college campuses and civil society organizations across the country to encourage a dialogue. Moreover, we will be releasing the film online in the days ahead.”
It’s important for us citizens and netizens and people of the world to understand that this is not an instance of ‘playing it safe’, nor is it actually about any religious sentiment. It is quite plainly about state control being masqueraded as a religious issue, and it should not be tolerated.
In 1934, ‘The Malicious Gossip Law’ was enforced to imprison anyone who told jokes about the Nazis. By 1935, 1600 newspapers were put out of circulation. In 2015, the Indian people are at the mercy of a government that draws its ideology from the fascist German state of the early thirties and forties, and if history has taught us anything at all, well then we have every reason to be afraid.