The last few days have seen much heat generated by the removal of Anupam Kher as Chairman of the CBFC.
The Campaign Against Censorship/Films for Freedom would like to draw attention to the fact that the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in the last few years had become a political tool in the hands of the BJP and its allies to stifle dissent and prevent the right of film makers to reach out to the public with stories of critical importance.
The real issue before us is the urgent need to review the Censorship laws under the Cinematograph Act as well as the functioning of the CBFC to prevent political parties and their appointees from harassing and attacking film makers who could be politically opposed to their ideology.
Mr. Anupam Kher led one of the most repressive censorship regimes of recent times . Under the short one year tenure of Anupam Kher as Chairman, the CBFC already mired in controversy, has gone through one of its darkest periods. The targeting of films that dealt with the Gujarat massacres of 2002, which the previous government had in particular a vested interest in stopping, exposed the partisan, authoritarian, and irresponsible use of the powers given to the CBFC. Mr. Kher and other officials of CBFC were directly responsible for the harassment faced by Rakesh Sharma (dir. of Final Solution). Final Solution went through a bizarre process of preview by CBFC. To begin with it was not even being accepted for preview on various pretexts; then it was denied a certificate for public exhibition with Mr. Kher making statements to the media defending the denial of certification and asserting that the film could not be publicly exhibited. The film was finally reviewed under immense public pressure and a certificate with no cuts was granted and now Mr. Kher claims it was his intervention that got the film a certificate! There are many other films that are still stuck with the CBFC.
The process began when the Regional Panels of the CBFC were stacked with political appointees with direct political links to the party in power (and mostly with no connection/interest in cinema). There was harassment of filmmakers at the censor board, and eventually the unprecedented step of the CBFC taking an aggressive and proactive stand in stopping screenings of "uncensored" films, often in collusion with right-wing political fronts. All of this happened with the knowledge of Shri Kher, if not at his behest. Mr. Kher was personally involved in attempting to disrupt the Films For Freedom festival in Bangalore earlier this year. He was aided in this attempt by members of the Hindu Jagran Manch who also claimed to be members of the regional board of the CBFC.
We also condemn the political censorship being imposed by Prasar Bharati on film-maker Prakash Jhas' recent film on Jayaprakash Narain (especially regarding those sections in the film that have critical references to the Emergency that was imposed by the Congress government). This clearly reiterates our belief that important public institutions like the CBFC and Prasar Bharati have been stripped of their independence and continue to be used by political parties to simply further their narrow agendas.
The Campaign against Censorship calls on all film makers, journalists, members of the media, democratic institutions and human rights organisations to join us in our demand to review and change the Cinematograph Act and all censorship laws and to create a certification mechanism that is based on the principles of freedom of expression and justice, and which prevents political, moral and cultural policing of the media by all governments and political parties.
For further information (in Delhi) contact:
Amar Kanwar: 98102 16088 / 26516088;
Rahul Roy: 98103 95589 / 26515161;
Saba Dewan: 26515161/9810395589;
Shohini Ghosh: 98180 88378 / 22720703;
Sanjay Kak: 98112 29952 / 26893893;
Ranjani Mazumdar: 98180 89519 / 22723764