Censorship at Symbiosis: See no Kashmir, hear no Kashmir, speak no Kashmir


kashmirfilm.wordpress.com

By Shivam Vij

For the past four years, a handful of Kashmiri Pandits and right-wing activists have shut down numerous screenings of Sanjay Kak’s Jashn-e-Azadi: How We Celebrate Freedom (2007). The most recent cancellation by Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune, was a result of pressure from the BJP’s student wing, the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad. The activists made sure the seminar was cancelled — at least for the moment — by not just leaning on the founder-director of Symbiosis but also by going to the police. The college principal Hrishikesh Soman says he got a letter from the police saying the screening should be avoided as the film was “controversial.”

The screening was to be a part of a UGC-funded seminar on Kashmir in the college, to which several others had also been invited. Thanks to the ABVP, the entire seminar has been cancelled.

There are many reasons offered for this dismal outcome – and all of them are spurious.

One such reason is the absence of a censor certificate. However, Section 10 of the Cinematograph Act allows for exemptions to be given for screening without a censor certificate, and a 1956-57 report ‘on the progress of audio-visual education’ (available on the HRD Ministry website) mentions that several states including Bombay (now called Maharashtra, where Pune is located) have used the clause to exempt educational institutions.

In short, Symbiosis would break no law by screening Jashn-e-Azadi.

This isn’t about whether or not the film has a censor certificate, whether or not it needs one or should have one. This is about Kashmir and the attempt by the rightwing to silence all discussion on Kashmir. The ABVP claims both the film and the seminar encourages “separatism.” In other words, they decide what is anti-national and what is not, and their opinions have now become – by default – the law of the land. Anything that is “controversial” to the Hindu or Muslim right inevitably creates a “law and order” problem and hence has to be shut down.

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