Big Brother is flexing his muscles again. The Central Board of Certification pushes its boundaries from simply certifying films to cutting, chopping, snipping, hacking and butchering films as per the whims and moods of those who sit on it. Now the Butcher has decided all filmmakers must sign an undertaking that censored portions of films will not be released on the Internet.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is a statutory body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, regulating the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952, amended in 1983. This Act covers films and television but does not mention the Internet. It was found that filmmakers were releasing censored sections of films on the Internet, such as adult comedies Mastizaade and Kya Kool Hain Hum 3. In response to a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana high court, the Information & Broadcasting ministry along with CBFC issued a decision that forbade filmmakers from reinstating censored sections from their films on the Internet.
It goes without saying that there is stuff out there that is inappropriate for children. Just as films are certified as ‘Adults Only’, children’s access to the Internet must be managed. That is where Parental Controls come in. If parents can be educated on these methods by the same schools their children attend, they can set in motion what their children can or cannot view.
Why should thinking adults be subjected to schoolmarm behaviour by the State? Simply put, who the feluda does the CBFC think they are to decide what Indian adults — some who are better educated and qualified than the members — can see or not see? Obviously they don’t trust us. But, don’t they see? “Us” is “them” too at any given time. How are those sitting on the Board superior to the rest of us in India? If they weren’t corrupted by what they saw, why would we be?
As Ai Weiwei said, “Censorship is saying: ‘I’m the one who says the last sentence. Whatever you say, the conclusion is mine.’ But the internet is like a tree that is growing. The people will always have the last word – even if someone has a very weak, quiet voice. Such power will collapse because of a whisper”.
What pedestal is this Butcher Board on that they believe that it is fine for them to have all the fun, expose themselves to new ideas, expand their minds and the rest of us masses would be corrupted if we see it?
First came Jawarharlal Nehru’s fiddle with Article 19, adding restrictions to freedom of speech. This Nehru passed in Parliament when to his horror, he discovered the press did not idolise him as Prime Minister as they had when he was a freedom fighter. Then the Emergency, and details of that period are bordering on boring now. The now defunct infamous Section 66A had a cartoonist in jail, arrested young people for their Facebook posts, blocked and removed Twitter handles. Over the years, various political parties have had a glorious time banning books and films, while gathering vote banks.
Now, The Indian Express reported that they (who is ‘they’, as they say?) are setting up a cell to monitor all website content that will be marked ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or ‘neutral’. They already had 200 persons on staff and it is conveniently fuzzy on how many more they will hire. And guess who is paying for all this? We are. We are paying to get ourselves monitored and possibly disciplined by the school marm. But, yes, I forgot. It is specious to compare it to the Emergency, which was so clear and in your face. So I cannot even bring up a whiff of the Emergency because you see, it isn’t there. And I must point out, I have the freedom to write this, don’t I?
But, this new decision on what films or what part of films are allowed on the Internet is not as minor or mild as it may appear. It would mean that none of us would have seen Leslie Udwin’s film India’s Daughter to even hold a debate on it.
As George Bernard Shaw said, “Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads”. And that applies to films as well. Now the Internet.
But dear readers, do not fret. We won’t see what they don’t want us to see so we won’t know what we are missing. Or did you forget that Ignorance is Bliss? India’s Happiness Index will go up. Of course, the index will be tallied by ‘them’. Who is ‘them?’ How the feluda do I know? I’m in bliss.