Mr Prime Minister, I was absolutely astonished by the way the Censor Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has treated The Argumentative Indian, a documentary on Amartya Sen by economist Suman Ghosh.
It’s an innocuous film, beautifully crafted.
Prof Sen in an interview said it was not so much the word ‘cow’, the fact that “I raised my eyebrows and complained whether in a country as multi-religious as India, whether cow slaughter could be banned, on which the lives of so many people depend.”
He also said “It’s not the use of the word ‘Gujarat’ that they didn’t like, but my reference to what happened in 2002 in Gujarat that they don’t like.”
The Censor diktat has raised a question: Is this the way the democracy is being interpreted now?
Mr Prime Minister, when you came to power in 2014, people hoped there would be no hypocrisy on secularism, democratic rights and freedom of speech, and everyone would be able to practise his or her own religion without any fear. People harboured hope that you will always stand by words that “come from the depth of truth”.
In February, 2015 at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi, Sir, you told a gathering of Christian leaders and applauded the 2008-inter-faith ‘Hague Declaration’ of human rights: “I declare that my government stands by every word of the above declaration. My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions.”
On the World Press Freedom Day in May this year, Sir you tweeted: “Our unwavering support towards a free and vibrant press, which is vital in a democracy.”
I believe you’ll be true to your words. You will honour your words. Even though the CBFC’s chief Pahlaj Nihalini said, “I’ve done my job,” Sir, please do your job for the sake of free speech and appreciate dissent which is so crucial in a democracy.
This will lift your image, your stature and posterity will remember you as the only Prime Minister who isn’t hypocritical on the freedom of speech and who never falters to defend the democratic principles.
I strongly believe you’d like to see an India
“Where knowledge is free/
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls.
Where words come out from the depth of truth.
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”