India’s culture of censorship.

Censorship in India is a cause for anyone with a creative bent of mind, who has the capability to believe that they can judge. Anything even mildly offensive to anyone, if released into the public domain faces the brunt of censorship. MF Hussain and Salman Rushdie can proudly claim to have been the recipients of our censorship. But then time and again, India has stood up for writers like Taslima Nasreen, and despite death threats, given her sanctuary in India. Ashish Nandy, a famous sociologist and historian, despite passing comments on reservation did not have to stop academic writing. There have been instances when India has stood up against ‘incorrect’ censorship, but what is baffling is Indian people’s sensitivity to recent activities. Our democracy is a contradictory one, where every form of creativity, especially in art, requires the judgement and approval of every single community within the country.

It is difficult to even define the culture of censorship we have. We are fine with TV shows like Sasural Simar ka, but we have issues with Sunny Leone gyrating on screen. We want All India Bakchod to come up with hilarious videos criticising the Government of India, and make parodies on Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal, but we have a problem with them coming up with a Roast show, where consenting adults decide to abuse each other for fun (and also raise money for charity). All India Bakchod is an exemplary example of a bunch of people who wanted to do full- out comedy in a country like India, where censorship itself is a joke. And what is surprising is that their video had a disclaimer at the beginning – watch it at your own risk. Agreed, sentiments do flare up on seeing someone’s mother and sister abused on screen, but when the same people go watch Ragini MMS 2, or read Fifty Shades of Grey, then where does our censorship disappear?

Foreign imports are tragically considered the ‘culture of the west’ and since they do not ruin ‘Bharatiya sanskriti’ or tarnish it, it is alright to watch it. Right? No wonder we queue up in front of movie theatres to watch Hollywood couples kiss and make out on screen.

What I don’t understand is the discomfort with ‘non- sexual’ topics too, amongst Indians. Religion is definitely a thread, which, if pulled, ruffles multiple feathers. Censor Board Chairman Leela Samson’s recent resignation in January over the clearance of Godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s film MSG- Messenger of God, led to a string of resignations within the Censor Board. The film was given a green signal by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) for release. The film literally promotes a God- like figure, and has been directed by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh himself. Our Censor Board already has faced enough flak for clearing films like Haider and Jism 2, then why should there be a problem with such a movie? Movies like Parzania and Water had to wait years to get a clearance, then why did the Censor board have to resign over such a movie, which actually promotes a religious personality? The Censor Board never fails to surprise the Bhatt family, the Indian public shouldn’t express their surprise over such an action of the Censor board.

Censorship by the Censor Board is dictated by political motives and whether the board is trying to move in the right direction or the wrong – the fact has been proven that censorship doesn’t lie in the hands of God, it lies in the hands of certain people claiming to be God (pun intended).

The past one year has been a parody on censorship in India. While on the one hand, a film like PK released, which questioned the meaning of religion altogether, and of course, Aamir Khan’s near nude poster which flared up the nostrils of every well- meaning person in the country who would rather see the statues of Khajoraho wear clothes, Tamil writer Perumal Murugan’s decision to leave writing altogether went seemingly unnoticed by a lot of people. Perumal Murugan’s recent decision to stop writing after Hindu activists started delivering threats to him over his book, ‘One part woman’ which is about a woman’s attempt at consensual sex with a stranger to beget a child has pulled the trigger in Tamil Nadu, where Murugan had to literally seek police protection for his family. But thankfully there will be no need to censor him anymore- Murugan announced his death as a creative artist recently and has decided to lead his life as a teacher.

Is this what our censorship is? Forcing people to stop their creativity altogether? In a country that claims to be upholding its culture, where is the culture if we censor it in the first place? There are statements that others don’t like, there are policies undertaken by the government that other’s don’t approve, we can’t go around censoring everything. If India believes everything is following the path of Charlie Hebdo, then it is mistaken. Our democracy is our censorship, but right now our democracy is a joke and censorship is a parody on Indian culture.

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