EXPRESSING shock and anger at the recent Central Board of Film Certification’s (CBFC) demand that certain words be excised from a film based on the work of the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, many academics, artists and cultural activists issued a statement on July 13, condemning this censorship. The movie is titled after Sen’s 2005 work, The Argumentative Indian, which was widely acknowledged for its deep and authentic explorations of India’s traditions of public debate.
The CBFC has reportedly demanded that certain words used by Sen and other scholars and public intellectuals interviewed in the film should be bleeped out if it is to be granted certification for public exhibition. These words include “cow”, “Hindutva view of India”, “Hindu India” and “Gujarat”. The CBFC’s exertions under its current chair have long crossed the line from farce to tragedy. Occasional efforts to bring it to its senses, such as the stern judicial reprimand handed down in the Udta Punjab case, seem to have no more than transient effect. With its diktat on The Argumentative Indian, the CBFC shows yet again that its anxiety to protect the sensitivities of the political regime, overwhelm any manner of commitment to the constitution and the law. At risk in this plunge into absurdity, are our most valuable traditions of free speech and debate, said the statement. Some of the signatories to the statement include Irfan Habib, Ashok Mitra, Romila Thapar, Shyam Benegal, Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Saeed Mirza, Anand Patwardhan, Prabhat Patnaik and Mihir Bhattacharya.