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When The Cow Goes Beep

Posted by Gokul Balu in Culture-Vulture, Politics
July 15, 2017

Quite frankly, I couldn’t suppress a chuckle when I recently read how the CBFC played spoilsport once again. The last time this great authority played their cards, the reason was close to their sense of ‘culture’ but this time their actions are proving nothing else but their political affinity.

When the whole nation is split sideways with hate crimes being committed over beef, this comes as no surprise that the documentary on Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has been red flagged by the Censor Board. Reason being certain ‘objectionable’ word(s) which came up in a part of the film and it must be obvious by now that one of those words refers to the scandalous bovine. Every day a new act of public frustration surfaces where the ‘criminal’ is possessing beef and the crowd goes haywire on this ‘anti-national’ individual and beats him to the near end of his life.

This has shockingly become common. These acts are completely being justified indirectly and receive lawful mileage because of the cattle slaughter ban which was imposed earlier. Even though this is under contention in the Apex Court, the foundational agenda is clear. While the ‘cattle calling’ is still on the loose, it is the relative absurdity of certain authorities that clearly presents the shallow nature of insecurities. This is exactly what prompts many to weigh the situation further.

Selective Screening:

This freshly brewed controversy by the CBFC involves not just flagging the usage of the word ‘cow’ but also terms like ‘Gujarat’, ‘Hindutva’ and references to the Gujarat riots. This raises eyebrows against this calculated highlighting of certain content that works unfavourably for the ruling party. The art of film making does not necessarily coincide with a political agenda but here it seems the supreme authority for film censoring is acting within one.

What To Say And What Not To Say?

This is where the confusion crops up: where exactly do we express ourselves? Is there a code of conduct that has been germinated? If yes, how do we follow it? Quite clearly none of these makes sense. We are all aware that the act of censoring is not being restricted to the movie theatres alone, it is being propagated through movies as well. If the authorities wish to monitor us then they should do that in broad day light, then at least the general public will have clarity.

What Happens To The Right To Free Speech?

Freedom of Expression (The Constitution of India provides the right to freedom, given in articles 19, 20, 21 and 22. The right to freedom in Article 19 guarantees the Freedom of speech and expression, as one of its six freedoms) is a constitutional right and one which is guaranteed to every citizen as long as it is not bordering on the theme of spreading hatred or violence. Here, in this particular case, the censored area in the video does not incite violence or any security threat. What is being censored is the remark of a world renowned economist because of the usage of a few nouns, which goes directly against the current ruling power. On that note, we should address what happens to the right to free expression, because expressions are becoming more scripted according to the wishes of those who are in power and, irrespective of the party in power, they take this right for granted.

Censorship– The New Meter To Define Culture, Heritage and Political Agendas?

Let’s go down the memory lane. Just a month back the CBFC brought its weight down on a movie because of the usage of the word ‘intercourse’ in its trailer. Let’s present one more reference where the film “Lipstick Under My Burkha” was not given the clearance (later cleared after receiving immense criticism) because of being “too lady oriented’’. These remarks show us how the CBFC refuses to grow up. They should wake up and smell the coffee and try to understand that in this age of the internet, where content is so freely available, maybe we aren’t still stuck in the age of the dinosaurs? The defining of culture, dictating what to watch and segregation of genders tell us that the CBFC refuses to believe that patriarchy will not be digested anymore.

As I conclude I would like to remark that this is not an article written to blame a government body for doing its job but it intends to critique how they are doing the said job. Censoring is important to regulate content, especially today, where there is a plethora of content pouring in from different quarters. Regulating films, which is a highly popular medium, becomes that much important. Since this medium is equally influential there must be a system of checks and balances, but the balance must never be always towards the right. Why not let it shift freely?