Bollywood film banned in India over fear of unrest
Aarakshan, a Bollywood film about India's controversial quota system
for disadvantaged groups has been banned in three states, for fear
that its discriminatory language may cause protests
guardian.co.uk, Friday 12 August 2011 13.30 BST
Protesters tear down a poster for Aarakshan in Mumbai.
Protesters tear down a poster for Aarakshan in Mumbai. Photograph:
A controversial Bollywood film which touches on the highly-sensitive
subject of affirmative action for the Dalit community (the caste
formerly known as "untouchables") in the country's education system,
has been banned in three Indian states.
Local authorities in the northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab,
and Andhra Pradesh in the south fear screenings of Aarakshan
(Reservation) will cause law and order issues among Hindus. The drama,
directed by well-known Indian film-maker Prakash Jha and starring
Bollywoodstar Amitabh Bachchan, has been criticised for using
objectionable terms to describe people from the Dalit community, who
were once denied access to decent job and education prospects.
The film's title refers to the current practice of reserving education
places and government jobs for socially disadvantaged groups, a policy
introduced to help ensure social mobility for India's 166 million
low-caste citizens following centuries of repression.
Jha, who has a history of making films which touch on sensitive social
issues, has denied suggestions that Aarakshan paints a negative image
of Dalits, a self-imposed title which means broken or suppressed.
"In India there are people who benefit from this policy [of quotas]
and there are those who have missed an opportunity because of the
policy," he said last week. "Reservation and the quota system is a
hard-hitting reality. It is almost an India-versus-India situation and
by showing this in my movie, I am trying to bridge the gap."
Writing on his blog, Bachchan said critics were acting out of
ignorance. "Without any knowledge of what the film contains, without
any desire to determine the trust and the most basic principles of law
of democracy, it has merely strengthened my and many others' fear of
the weakness it conveys of our belief in governance and its ethics,"
Posters for the film have been vandalised by protesters, many of whom
have also objected to the casting of Saif Ali Khan, a Muslim
aristocrat, as a Dalit.
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