Protests over PK is worrying, but we should have been worried over these too

When a group of hooligans start tearing posters and vandalizing private property, we need to worry. We need to worry not because it’s a law and order situation – tearing posters is still a misdemeanor, not a grave crime – but we need to worry because it shows the level of intolerance growing in the society.

However, the vanguards of freedom and tolerance in our society appear to worry only when a particular group protests, that too when a particular party is in power.

If we go by the commentary of those who identify themselves as left-liberal, we’d be to believe that such intolerance was never shown earlier. And the only time Bollywood was under attack was when BJP ruled last – from 1998 to 2004.

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If we go by the discourse promoted by these commentators, there were protests against movies like Fire and Water, and then there was golden era under Manmohan Singh, and finally fascism has returned with Narendra Modi.

But even a person with average memory can say that this is pure propaganda.

Our great commentators are known to be selectively deaf and blind to follies of their own and of their fellow travelers. They are to be as much blamed for this rise in intolerance as those hooligans who are tearing posters of PK.

Kolkata protests by Muslim groups
When fringe Hindu groups see such protests attracting no criticism or action, they get into a competitive match.

Note that those hooligans are indulged in competitive intolerance. When they see that intolerance of other groups is ignored and similar deeds go unpunished, they try to match the groups’ intolerance.

Just in case you think we are making this stuff up, do consider the following incidents:

Barely weeks after Congress returned to power in 2004, a movie called Amu was to be released. The movie was based on anti-Sikh genocide of 1984 and it showed how some Congress leaders were involved in killing of Sikhs.

The movie was earlier cleared by Anupam Kher, who was appointed as the Censor Board chief by the Vajpayee government, but Kher was sacked after Congress came back to power and Amu producers were harassed. Censor Board asked for various cuts on pretexts like the movie could hurts sentiments, it can cause law and order problems, and more. After tones of cuts, the movie was given an “A” certification and allowed to release.

Did you hear any liberal criticize this? Now compare how much noise the liberals made when there were some protests against Parzania, a movie on 2002 riots.

So a movie critical of Congress was almost killed by the UPA government appointed Censor Board as soon as the party was back in power. There were no op-eds written by liberals protesting it.

And the Censor Board, since then, has always indulged in such irrational censoring while our liberals have looked the other way.

Remember that in 2006, few months after Amu was mauled by cuts, India banned the internationally acclaimed movie The Da Vinci Code. Apparently it would have hurt Christian sentiments and created a law and order problem.

The feelings of the Christian community, widely considered to be peaceful and tolerant, were again “protected” by the Censor Board when it acted “pro-actively” and decided to cut some scenes in a comedy movie Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal.

Yes, a comedy movie was censored! If the same would have been done by a Hindu group, those groups would have been criticized, and rightfully so, for having no sense of humor and having sad lives. Did we hear the same about protesting Christian groups from any of these commentators?

This was not the only comedy movie that was censored. Only a few months back, Akshay Kumar starrer Entertainment was asked by Censor Board to change the name of a character as it would have hurt the sentiments of Muslims.

No kidding. A character’s name, not even his actions parodying any holy figure, but the name could have hurt sentiments, and the Censor Board asked the producers to change the name.

It was just a few months back, do you remember any tweets saying freedom of expression or artistic freedom was being assaulted by religious fundamentalists? And all these years, the UPA government appointed board was humoring such demands.

So much so that during Vishwaroopam protests, some Muslim groups demanded that Censor Board should be restructured demanding reservations for Muslim community leaders in the board!

Perhaps if BJP had not won, UPA-III would have been working on a bill promising reservations to Muslim clerics in Censor Board. Who knows, maybe next time when they return to power, they will do it! And believe us, our liberals will keep quiet if and when it happens.


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