Thursday, July 1, 2010

India Bans Documentary on Nepali Maoists

The Hindu, July 1

Censor board rejects film on Nepali Maoists

Citing the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the country, the censor board has refused to certify a documentary film which it feels justifies the ideology of the Maoist movement in Nepal.

“It does not have a single word about the Indian Maoist movement. I could have juxtaposed it, but I specifically did not do it,” says Anand Swaroop Verma, the frustrated producer of the film ‘Flames of the Snow: Revolution in Nepal’. “It is a chronological history of the Nepali people’s struggle against autocratic regimes.”

Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Sharmila Tagore says “India does defy definition,” indicating that something which justifies the Nepali movement may also reflect on its Indian counterparts. “Are there similarities in the ‘-ism’? Can parallels be drawn,” she asks. “I do feel that there sometimes has to be some restriction in view of peace, of law and order — the bigger picture.” She will personally view the film when the Reviewing Committee considers Mr. Verma’s appeal next week.

The board communicated its refusal to certify the film for public screening on June 14, after a four-month period during which consultations were held with the Ministry of External Affairs, a former Ambassador to Nepal who gave his objections in writing, and experts on Maoists and Nepal.

“In the opinion of the Examining Committee, any justification or romanticisation of the ideology of extremism or of violence, coercion, intimidation in achieving its objectives would not be in the public interest, particularly keeping in view the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the country,” said the board’s letter, which also quoted the Cinematograph Act’s provision that a film must not be “against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order …”

Given the sensitivity of the issue and the current Maoist violence, the Examining Committee may have erred on the side of caution. “There is no intention to muzzle anyone,” says Ms. Tagore. “The problem may have been that it wasn’t a balanced film. It may have been entirely pro-Maoist.”

Mr. Verma admits that while he has been writing about Nepal for the past 30 years, he is also a known Communist who has written extensively on Indian Maoists, though he is “critical of them on some issues.” However, he reiterates that his film simply tracks the history of Nepali people’s movements from the 1770s, including the peasant movement which produced the “first martyr” Lakhan Thapa, the Praja Parishad and Nepali Congress movements, and finally the Maoist armed struggle and the toppling of the monarchy, ending with the proclamation of the republic in 2008.

“It is not possible to make any film on Nepal’s history or politics without mentioning Maoists,” he says, adding the Maoists are a legitimate movement, with the largest number of seats in the Assembly. “India has even welcomed a Nepali Maoist Prime Minister,” he points out.

Mr. Verma has appealed the decision to the Revising Committee, and if the film is rejected again, he will take his case to the appellate tribunal and courts.

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