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Jaundiced ‘beep’

Editorial |

Traditionally have censors used red or blue pencils to delete what they did not want printed. During the Emergency of 1975-77 they took an easier way out ~ simply using a rubber stamp that read “not for publication”, and subsequently they merely said “publish at your own risk”.

There is no censorship of the written word today, more “subtle” methods are employed to influence the media. However, there is no finesse to how the Central Board of Film Certification goes about its business trying to keep the silver-screen on its own version of the “straight and narrow”.

And it appears to relish its self-arrogated role of being the nation’s Commissioner of Moral Police: so much so that it has “progressed” from projecting an obscurantist, obsolete, outdated, misogynistic point of view to try to silence criticism of the political powers-that-be.

In a move that would have embarrassed/thrilled Indira Gandhi even more than the “Indira is India” assertion of the then president of the Congress party, the CBFC has now opted to use a saffron “beeper” to mute comments which it deems unflattering to the Prime Minister.

The “victim”? None other than Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen ~ the rest of the world accords him iconic status, but domestically the Biblical “no prophet is honoured in his home country” seems to find resonance. A documentary on the universally acclaimed economist has “actuated” the censor’s scissors ~ sorry, the “beeper” ~ to silence four comments that the CBFC feels do not flatter Narendra Modi.

The “offensive” words being “Gujarat”, “cow”, “Hindutva view of India” and “Hindutva India” ~ all terms commonly used by critics of the present government. Clearly the message from the Shyam Benegal committee that earlier took a comprehensive review of the certification process have not “trickled down”. The insult is not to Dr Sen alone. The outgoing President has made no secret of his admiration for the “argumentative Indian”, and the silence of several hours of the present minister of information and broadcasting on the CBFC action lends itself to being interpreted as slighting Pranab Mukherjee too.

That too despite the Prime Minister having recently publicly asserted how much he had benefitted from his association with Mukherjee: clearly the President’s frequent insistence on the value of a tolerant, liberal, social order has not impacted the CBFC.

The last word on the “censored” documentary may be pronounced by the judiciary ~ criticism from other quarters has gushed forth ~ but the views of the government will be enlightening.

Thoughts go back to one of Sudhir Dar’s cartoons in this newspaper which caricatured Indira Gandhi preening herself before a mirror, newspaper in hand: the caption read “Now, that’s what I call a good report”. Is the nation ready for a re-run?