The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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History OK, if EC says so

Calcutta, April 11: Scenes of houses being torched and residents on fire, a place of worship being pulled down and police brutality during Emergency, which had featured in the CPM's campaign CDs, have incurred the Election Commission's wrath.

A poll panel-commissioned censor team has had them scissored.

The three-member team headed by the state's joint chief electoral officer, Nikhil Sa-hana, had been entrusted with scanning all campaign CDs before they were put in circulation. The panel has so far edited three CDs to be aired by the CPM and the Congress.

According to officials, the first CD submitted by the CPM had extensive footage of the Gujarat riots, which included houses being set on fire, mobs chasing and killing people and charred bodies of women and children.

The film also showed the demolition of the Babri mosque and the carnage across the country that followed.

'We don't mind political parties beating their own drum to garner more votes, but we take objection if somebody is being maligned for political mileage. Also, we cannot clear anything that is inflammatory or might foment communal violence or violates the model code of conduct,' Sahana said.

After about 10 minutes of footage was snipped from the first CD, a CPM zonal commi-ttee submitted a second CD. This time showing police excesses from the Emergency era.

It included scenes of policemen chasing people, beating them and dragging handcuffed men and women.

There was also a sequence in which men were shot in their backs after a chase.

'Though we deleted violent scenes from the Emergency, we've retained the text on the event. After we'd deleted the riots from the first CPM CD, the second came with inflammatory remarks and speeches by RSS leaders. They were also deleted as it was a communal issue,' the official said.

Painter Paritosh Sen said deleting the riot scenes made sense, but leaving the police's Emergency excesses out was absurd. 'The Emergency was a political decision and is part of our history. The Congress is in power at the Centre and it obviously doesn't want to revive memories of that era.'

Former IIM director Amitava Bose said suppression of any information is wrong.

'Everyone has a right to historical information. But, we also have to see how this information is being disseminated and whether it is being given out solely to serve somebody's interests,' he said.

Political part-ies and groups have been asked to submit their campaign CDs to the censor panel before they are put on air.

'After we've proposed the cuts, a copy of the edited CD is handed over to the party for telecast, while another copy is kept with us for record,' said an official.

'All television channels ' including news channels ' have been asked not to air any CD which is not accompanied by a censor certificate,' the joint chief electoral officer said.

The panel has also run its scissors extensively on the disc supplied by the Congress.

Sahana said: 'It featured doctored footage of what was supposed to be the Gobindapur eviction along the Dhakuria lakes. Here, the party had shown houses ablaze and people being beaten up.'

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