Censoring truth?

Print edition : June 06, 2003

Dr. Arjun Soren, who contracted cancer because he grew up near uranium mines in Jadugoda. -

Some of the cuts suggested by the CBFC:

Cut 1. "Delete the visuals of Gandhiji being shot by Nathuram Godse."

According to the CBFC, this violates Censorship Guideline 2(xii), which states that "visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented".

Cut 5. "Delete the commentary `BJP is faced with growing criticism'."

The commentary in the film factually states: "With criticism growing against the bomb, the BJP invites the press to the launch of a music video."

Cut 7. "Delete the entire sequence, visuals and dialogues spoken by a Dalit leader, including all references to Lord Budha (sic)."

This cut refers to a sequence in which a Dalit neo-Buddhist argues that it is a travesty that nuclear tests were carried out on Buddha's birthday and that the Buddha's name was used as a military code to mark the tests despite the fact that the Buddha has always been depicted unarmed.

Cut 8. "Delete the reference to BJP uttered by villager."

Cut 11. "Delete the visual of `Hindu rath'."

The rath (chariot) in question is not a "Hindu" rath but a BJP election vehicle painted to look like a rath.

Cut 14. "Delete the RPI speech especially deleting the dialogue `Not poverty but poor are eliminated'."

The CBFC attributes these words to the Dalit-led Republican Party of India while in reality they are sung by musicians of an unidentified caste from Bihar.

Cut 17. "Delete the reference to BJP."

Here journalist Achin Vanaik argues that the BJP and other elites have used nationalism in the nuclear area but have surrendered sovereignty to the United States in the economic and cultural fields.

Cut 20. "Delete the entire sequence of Tehelka wherever it occurs in the film."

Over four hours of the Tehelka tapes showing hidden camera footage was broadcast nationally. The CBFC says the matter is sub-judice.

Cut 21. (General cut) "Delete the entire visuals and dialogues of all political leaders, including President, Prime Minister and Ministers."

The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) dismissed most of the cuts ordered by the CBFC. It, however, asked for the following cuts:

Cut 1:

"Delete the reference to Hindu Bomb and Muslim Bomb."

The sequence in question depicts an anti-nuclear demonstration recorded by the film-maker. In two prior sequences, one in Pakistan where namaaz is offered in front of a monument to the Shaheen missile and another in India where a Ganesh pandal serves as the venue for an exhibit on the nuclear test, the film had established the dangers of mixing religion with the Bomb. When anti-nuclear demonstrators shouted "Hindu Bomb hai, hai (shame, shame), Muslim Bomb hai, hai" it was to make people aware of the dangers of mixing religion with nuclear jingoism.

Cut 2: "It's your culture."

The CBFC demanded the cutting in its entirety of a speech by a neo-Buddhist Dalit who protested against the fact that the nuclear tests were coded with the message "The Buddha smiled". He asked why an unarmed Buddha became a nuclear symbol rather than Hindu gods who are often shown bearing weapons. The FCAT allowed the whole speech but objected to three words: "It's your culture". The film links the struggle against militarisation and violence with the struggle for social justice. It focusses on the deep-rooted hurt that the caste system has inflicted.

The film does not highlight Dalit opposition to the Bomb alone. In the scene that follows the Dalit's speech, in Khetolai (the village nearest to the 1998 test site) members of the Bishnoi community speak out against the Bomb. The Bishnois are relatively upper caste Hindus but they come from a strongly eco-friendly, non-violent tradition. Their ancestors were martyred while protecting trees, yet the nuclear tests were conducted on their lands. The two sequences in tandem show that amongst the poor in urban and rural India, amongst Dalits and caste Hindus, there is opposition to the Bomb.

The addition that the FCAT asked for is: "Let Mr. Patwardhan show the (Tehelka) tapes but let him mention in the commentary and display at an appropriate place that the tapes are under scrutiny of a judicial commission."

A letter from the Editor


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