PROTECT FREE SPEECH: FILMMAKER PATWARDHAN'S "WAR AND PEACE"

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Re: PROTECT FREE SPEECH: FILMMAKER PATWARDHAN'S "WAR AND PEACE"
[ More details in: http://www.ektaonline.org/patwardhan/ ]


We, the undersigned, wish to bring to your notice our deep concern
about the plight of Anand Patwardhan's award-winning documentary "War
and Peace" submitted over a month ago for certification to the Censor
Board. We urge you to take speedy measures to release the film to the
general public without any further delay.

"War and Peace" is a three-hour long documentary that has won
several awards, including two major awards at the recently concluded
7th Mumbai International Film Festival, an event organized by the
Films Division of India (FDI), a governmental body that falls under
your purview.

The film's message of peace and religious tolerance acts like a
soothing balm in a world today that is deeply fractured by the
politics of hatred and violence. In view of the horror in Gujarat
and the dangers of nuclear catastrophe, there is an urgent need
to build peace both within the country and without.

Given the enormous significance of the film in the context, we are
indeed astounded that the Censor Board appears to be delaying the
film's release instead of taking all possible steps to expedite it
and arrange for its widest distribution.

While, according to official admission, the film has not been banned,
censor board officials have been proactively stopping private screenings
of "War and Peace" even in such cases where prior permission was obtained
for the screening. For instance the FDI obtained special permission from
May 31st in Kolkata to screen award winning films regardless of whether
these had censor certificates. The screening was however blocked and the
organizers, obviously under pressure from above, insisted that a copy of the
film "hadn't arrived", even though a signed receipt disproves their claim.

After the examining committee saw the film on June 6, Patwardhan
was not given a chance to meet the examiners on the pretext that
"there was no consensus" in the group. The following week he was
issued a notice to cut many portions of the film. These include the
diktat: "Delete the entire sequence with visuals and dialogue spoken
by Dalit leader" and "Delete the visuals and dialogues of entire
tehelka episode wherever it occurs in the film" and "Delete the entire
visuals and dialogues spoken by Political Leaders including the Minister
and Prime Minister."

These are astonishing demands that cut at the very roots of democracy.
Our right to freedom of expression and our right to information are
protected under the constitution.

We find these actions of the Censor Board to be unbelievable and deeply
disturbing. We urge you to take immediate steps to arrange for the
speedy release of the film without cuts.