Latest CBFC Gyan: Amartya Sen Can’t Say ‘Gujarat’ or ‘Cow’

The Censor Board in Kolkata has stalled the release of a documentary on the Nobel laureate because the director has refused to beep out Sen saying ‘Gujarat’, ‘cow’, ‘Hindu India’ or ‘Hindutva view of India’.

Amartya Sen. Credit: PTI

Amartya Sen. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has verbally told filmmaker Suman Ghosh to mute four words, including ‘cow’, in his documentary on Amartya Sen, the director said.

The four words the CBFC’s regional office in Kolkata wants muted are ‘Gujarat’, ‘cow’, ‘Hindutva view of India’ and ‘Hindu India’, Ghosh, director of the documentary The Argumentative Indian, told PTI.

“After sitting for three hours at the Censor Board office in Kolkata, during which my documentary was screened and the members scrutinised every single shot, I was verbally told last night to mute four words ‘Gujarat’, ‘cow’, ‘Hindutva view of India’ and ‘Hindu India’ for getting a U/A certificate,” Gosh said.

“I expressed my inability [to do so] to them,” he said.

Taking out certain words from the discussion between Nobel laureate Sen and the interviewer, economist Kaushik Basu, would remove the soul of the documentary, Ghosh said.

“I am waiting for their written communication and to see whether they will send the film to a review committee in Mumbai. In any situation, my response will be the same,” he said.

“These days films get online certification. So I hope the issue gets resolved quickly. But there is no question of taking out some words,” he added.

When contacted, a member of the CBFC in Kolkata told PTI, “Nothing to comment to the media on what the director said.”

Speaking to NDTV, Sen said he was ‘astonished’ by the CBFC’s order. “Oh well, it’s (the attempt to censor the documentary) extraordinary. Because it’s a pretty innocuous film. It’s a beautifully done film. I’m full of admiration for Suman Ghosh, who did the film. But I was absolutely astonished to hear that there was anything controversial in it,” Sen said.

“”This tells you the country is in the hands of an authoritarian regime, which is pursuing its own view of what’s good for the country. It’s not so much the word cow, I mean cow is not one of my favourite words. It’s much more the favourite word of many members of the ruling party. It’s not so much the word cow, the fact that I raised my eyebrows and complained whether in a country as multi-religious, whether cow slaughter could be banned, on which the lives of so many people depend. It’s that what they object to. Not if I go on saying cow, cow, cow…. Similarly, 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,” he added.

In the documentary, Sen speaks of social choice theory, development economics, philosophy and the rise of right-wing nationalism across the world, including India. Shot in two parts in 2002 and 2017, the documentary is structured as a conversation between Sen and his former student, Basu.

According to a report in The Telegraph, Sen mentions Gujarat in a lecture he is delivering at Cornell University: “…Why democracy works so well is that the government is not free to have its own stupidities, and in case of Gujarat its own criminalities, without the opposition being howled down and booted out….”

‘Hindu India’ is mentioned when Basu asks Sen about his book of essays, the original The Argumentative Indian. Sen responds, the book is “really based on my understanding of the country… (and) the country was now being interpreted sometimes as Hindu India and sometimes as other restricted visions of the country…”

‘Hindutva view of India’ comes up when Sen is talking about the backlash he has faced for his views: “Now a lot of people would disagree with my view of India…. Whenever I try to take this rather grand view of India, which is not the banal Hindutva view of India, whenever I make a statement, I know the next morning I will get 800 attacks on social media of four different kinds…. I can see there is an organised attack (by a particular political group)…. Now the main thing is not to be deterred by it.”

The Argumentative Indian was meant to release in Kolkata this coming weekend, but the release has been delayed due to the CBFC’s decision.

Note: This copy has been updated to include Amartya Sen’s response.

(With PTI inputs)

Liked the story? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.
  • Anjan Basu

    Nothing should surprise us any more in today’s India. The state is in overdrive: Modi is the PM, Mohan Bhagawat ( he of the ‘Hindu women must produce more children, so that the rise of Islam may be kept in leash’ fame) is India’s conscience-keeper, Nihalani heads the Film Certification Board, sundry morons are increasingly being placed in the most important positions in academia and the cultural world. God’s sure in his heaven and all’s right with (nationalist, cow- adoring, Muslim-lynching) India.