Monday, 30th October 2017

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Astonished but cow gag tells us something

Censor diktat shows country is in the hands of authoritarian regime: Sen

  • Published 13.07.17
Amartya Sen with (right) Suman Ghosh

The Argumentative Indian, a documentary on Amartya Sen by economist Suman Ghosh, has been denied release with the Central Board of Film Certification telling the filmmaker that words like "Gujarat", "cow", "Hindutva view of India" and "Hindu India" must be beeped out. Ghosh has refused, saying there is no question of "beeping out or changing anything" that the Nobel laureate has said in the documentary.

Amartya Sen told NDTV, from his home Pratichi in Santiniketan, on Wednesday:

"Oh well, it's (the attempt to censor the documentary) extraordinary. Because it's a pretty innocuous film. It's a beautifully done film. I'm full of admiration for Suman Ghosh, who did the film. But I was absolutely astonished to hear that there was anything controversial in it.

"It's settled in my mind two questions. One is whether these bodies like the censor board are working in the interests of the nation and its people or the interests of the ruling party and the government. To that, I think, this particular incident offers a fairly clear answer. The second question, in my mind, is whether anyone is going to see this film. They might not be interested in me. But of course, the censor board has now made it an interesting film and I am grateful for that.

"This tells you the country is in the hands of an authoritarian regime, which is pursuing its own view of what's good for the country. It's not so much the word cow, I mean cow is not one of my favourite words. It's much more the favourite word of many members of the ruling party. It's not so much the word cow, the fact that I raised my eyebrows and complained whether in a country as multi-religious, whether cow slaughter could be banned, on which the lives of so many people depend. It's that what they object to. Not if I go on saying cow, cow, cow.... Similarly, it's not the use of the word Gujarat that they didn't like, but my reference to what happened in 2002 in Gujarat that they don't like.

"So, to give them their due, there is a comprehensible point of view, understandable point of view. But that understanding is that of an authoritarian regime, which wants to use these bodies, meant to be bodies of the state rather than of the government, to act in the interests of the government and the ruling party running the government. And that tells you something about the way democracy is being interpreted right now by the ruling group in the country."