Matter of choice

A multitude of self-appointed censors have imposed a ban on Prakash Jha’s movie, Aarakshan, claiming it has certain ‘objectionable’ parts that could hurt the sentiments of dalits and OBCs. Aarakshan deals with the sensitive subject of caste reservations in India. A special panel of the Central Board of Film Certification viewed the movie, found nothing offensive, still suggested a couple of minor changes and gave it a U/A certificate. Jha made the changes the board suggested and prepared for the film’s release. That was when an array of ‘censors’ jumped in to raise what are rather ridiculous objections. Even Saif Ali Khan, a Muslim, portraying a backward caste youth in the movie has been objected to. Politicians smelling opportunity to project themselves as defenders of the interests of one caste or another called for the film’s ban.  The governments of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have banned its screening on the grounds that it contains objectionable material that could lead to an ugly law and order situation. Others can be expected to follow.


The Indian constitution guarantees citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. This right is already tempered by the Central Board of Film Certification’s censoring of films. And to add to this we now have an array of individuals, organisations, bodies and political parties that seem to regard themselves as supra censors. The right to censor films is vested in the Censor Board alone. No other individual or organisation, private or public or even government-appointed has the right to decide whether or not a movie is suitable for Indian audiences. Thus those governments that have banned the film are in effect undermining the Censor Board’s authority.

Those demanding the banning of movies, books and works of art on the ground that they are objectionable, insensitive or wrongly represent the ‘truth’ would do well to realise that Indian audiences are mature and capable of evaluating for themselves the merit of these works. We do not need moral police and self-appointed censors to decide what we should see and in what form. Those who have objections to Aarakshan have a choice. They could even make another movie expressing their point of view. India’s constitution gives us this choice. The self-appointed censors cannot deny us this choice.

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