Thursday, October 21, 2004

Film on casteism in quake-hit Gujarat (in 2001) censored

Chords... still tangled in controversy

Makers of banned film on earthquake-hit Kutch reject Adults certificate

Mumbai, October 20: ''The NDA government has created a communal divide in an already tragedy-stricken Kutch,'' boomed Shyam Ranjankar, director of the 45-minute documentary about the 2001 earthquake in Kutch-Chords On The Richter Scale.

The Examining Committee of the censor board banned the film in 2003. It has now been returned with 14 cuts.

When the director appealed again, the board offered to retain the deleted scenes but wanted to then give the film an 'A' certificate. The perturbed filmmaker and his producer insist there is nothing objectionable in their film, which has merely recorded facts.

Chords On The Richter Scale uses the Kutch tragedy as the backdrop while attacking political parties like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sena for allegedly harbouring communal tension in the affected villages after the earthquake.

Parts of the film feature soundbytes from afflicted villagers saying the VHP demanded that anyone who wanted biscuits and milk during the relief operations say ''Jai Shree Ram''. The film also describes how one community kitchen forbade Dalits from eating their meals with upper-caste Hindus.

There are also statements from anonymous party workers saying they prevented a number of Dalits from converting to Christianity, when the latter, fed up with the lack of relief measures from the government, approached missionaries for help.

''This is all part of a propaganda drive forcing the issue of forced conversion-in the midst of a terrible tragedy,'' said Ranjankar.

For now, he is waiting for the censor board's final decision. ''We are hoping for the best,'' said co-producer Ramesh Pimple.

Source: The Indian Express, October 21, 2004

Will Anupam Kher, who was recently fired from his position as chief of the censor board, care to explain the rationale for censoring such films? Even if he wasn't explicitly taking orders from the Sangh Parivar, in keeping such films under wraps, he was obviously helping their cause and hurting dalits. Good riddance of him!

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