Monday, 30th October 2017

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The day after The Argumentative Indian was ambushed

Nabaneeta Dev Sen, writer and ex-wife of Amartya Sen

By Compiled by Arindam Chatterjee and Sudeshna Banerjee
  • Published 13.07.17
Kaushik Basu and Amartya Sen during the shooting of the documentary in  Santiniketan earlier this year
Nabaneeta Dev Sen

Nabaneeta Dev Sen, writer and ex-wife of Amartya Sen

The space for choice in today's India is shrinking. Freedom is being curtailed in every sphere. Arbitrary decisions are being imposed upon us.

Take a simple example. Air India, the national carrier, decides not to serve non-vegetarian food in the economy class. But not all of us are vegetarians! Why must they force vegetarian meals on non-vegetarians?

The state is entering our kitchen to check what we eat. What can be more shameful and embarrassing than that? They are making a fool of us in the name of our culture.

The words in the documentary on Amartya (Sen) that the censor board wants beeped out are neither obscene nor objectionable. They are very much a part of our daily discourse. They appear in newspapers every day.

In the documentary, the words are not part of the script. They are a part of Amartya's opinion; in fact, they are key words. So it is his freedom of speech that is under attack. You can't tell people how to carry out an intellectual discussion and that is what forms the crux of the documentary - a discussion between Amartya and Kaushik Basu.

In a democracy, freedom of speech is our fundamental right, and you cannot stop people from expressing their opinion unless perhaps they are doing something harmful for society. This discussion was nothing like that.

Does this mean no one will be allowed to ask questions? This incident is a reminder of the Emergency days when individual freedom would be under attack every day.

Do they think muffling Amartya's voice would keep what is happening in the country from reaching the rest of the world? As if people abroad do not know about the beef ban, the lynchings in the name of the cow, what happened in Gujarat!

Rather, this censorship will be counterproductive by making news across the world and stoking people's curiosity about this purely academic documentary. That will be the real big blot on the country's image.

Kaushik Basu, economist and a former student of Sen who interviews him in the documentary, in a message to ABP Ananda

It is sad to hear of this effort to censor Amartya Sen's statements. My friends from many different countries are shocked by this, as am I, because it does not fit the global stature of India. It will be disappointing if India begins to imitate the very countries it criticises.

Krishna Bose

Krishna Bose, former MP, who watched The Argumentative Indian with Sen at a private screening in Nandan III on Monday evening

Initially, I thought it was ridiculous. But it is not. It is not something to laugh away. It is way more serious. It suggests a scary future for our country.

What did Amartya Sen say in the film? He only gave one or two instances - like Gujarat - which we can't deny. Can we?

Why censor? When someone like Amartya speaks, take note of it, don't cut it out.

Jawhar Sircar

Jawhar Sircar, former Prasar Bharati CEO, who was there for the screening of the film at Nandan

It's sad that a person of Amartya Sen's stature is told what he can say and what he can't.

Were there no riots in Gujarat or is that also edited out?

Suman should not give up hope as reason will ultimately win, today or tomorrow.

Dhritiman Chaterji, actor, who was there at the private screening in Nandan

I was expecting something like this would happen. The whole idea is to kind of lead to a situation where well-intentioned people get protest fatigue. And just kind of give up. It's an in-your-face approach. They are saying this is what we will do. We don't give a hoot about what you think.

We keep on lamenting the loss of democratic rights without realising that the ruling party which is a satrap of another organisation which will remain unnamed has actually no interest in democracy. Democratic frameworks and institutions are not important to it. We have to realise that.

In the film, Amartyada refers in passing to a secular right. Surely, there are well-intentioned people in the party who are right wing but secular. I like to think there are people from the film industry who are part of this party, who I respect as individuals and professionals, have the spine to stand up and say you cannot do this... say something! Where is the secular right?

Good-intentioned people I believe will reach protest fatigue soon.

I have messaged Suman to say there is no question of giving in. He must go on appeal. And there must be solidarity in protest. I would only be happy to join that. The overarching stupidity of all of this is that this film will go up on the Internet. How can you stop anyone from seeing it?

Mamata Banerjee

Anik Datta, filmmaker, who was there for the screening at Nandan

It's a coincidence that my next film, Meghnadbodh Rohoshyo, which is hopefully 'coming soon' is in the news for similar reasons. (The CBFC has asked Datta to beep out a couple of words, including "Ram").... A clampdown on the views expressed by one of the most brilliant minds of our times or anyone for that matter without a very 'valid' reason is unacceptable. Is this an attempt to turn 'The Argumentative Indian' into a non-argumentative one?

"Every single voice of the opposition is being muzzled. Now, Dr Amartya Sen. If somebody of his stature cannot express himself freely, what hope does the common citizen have," tweeted chief minister Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) at 3pm.