Punjab, AP also ban Jha's Aarakshan
Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, August 11, 2011
A day before its release Prakash Jha's movie Aarakshan (Reservation)
has stirred a controversy, with the Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra
Pradesh governments banning it and the National Commission for
Scheduled Castes (NCSC) reporting to the Central Board of Film
Certification that it has "objectionable dialogues".
Lead actor Amitabh Bachchan, who plays a college principal in the film
about quotas in higher education, slammed the bans and protests as the
"most unfortunate fascist conditioning".
Security has been strengthened outside the houses of Bachchan and Saif
Ali Khan, who plays a Dalit in the movie.
NCSC chairman PL Punia said, "We have seen the film. Some dialogues
are objectionable. We have forwarded them to the censor board to
OBC Parliamentary Forum convenor V Hanumantha Rao wrote to minister
for information and broadcasting Ambika Soni to have the filmmakers
remove the "objectionable" portions.
A UP government official justified the two-month ban in the state,
saying, "The state government doesn't want tensions at a time when
polls are approaching." Assembly elections are due in UP and Punjab in
less than a year.
"A government with a Dalit base wants to send a political message of
strength through the ban," said Badri Narayan, an Allahabad-based
expert on Dalit politics.
Explaining why the film has been banned in Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal
MP Naresh Gujral told HT: "We have the highest percentage of Dalits in
India at about 30%. We are also a border state where Pakistan always
wants to create trouble. Can we risk social tension?" Jostling with
the Telangana crisis and the rebellion of Jagan Mohan Reddy, the
Congress government in Andhra Pradesh already has its hands full.
Aarakshan director Prakash Jha said, "For states where it has created
problems, it is not a question of re-editing of the film but of
sorting out certain issues."
While filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt rued that "freedom of expression remains
a distant dream", lawyer Aman Lekhi told HT that the film could be in
legal trouble if Dalits feel hurt. "Freedom of speech does not
encompass derogatory remarks," he said.
JNU sociologist Vivek Kumar said the promos suggest attempts at
"stereotyping deprived communities".
(Inputs from Chandigarh & Hyderabad)
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