Censored: Government Disallows Student Documentary On Beef At Film Festival

The Huffington Post, 30 October 2015

Arun Jaitley-headed ministry of information and broadcasting has denied clearance for a student documentary film on the politics of caste and beef consumption, which was scheduled to be screened in Delhi at a film festival focussing on livelihood this weekend.

Made by the students of Tata Institute Of Social Sciences in Mumbai, Caste on the Menu Card was picked out of a list of 35 films that are being screened at the Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival 2015. All the other films were cleared.

Typically, all movies being screened publicly ought to clear the central film certification, aka 'Censor' board. Student documentaries are exempt and they only need to submit a written synopsis of the film to the I&B ministry. Since 2002, that's been standard procedure for the Jeevika festival too.

Manoj Mathew, the festival director, said the movie was dropped only because of the political brouhaha over beef. "I was told by the ministry that it was due to the sensitivity of beef and i've entreated them to at least watch it before denying permission."

Sanjay Murthy, a joint secretary at the I&B Ministry, told the Indian Express that the movie was dropped as it didn't furnish sufficient information. “We have not given exemption from certification to this documentary since we were not provided with adequate information about the film by the festival organisers.” Murthy, however added that the ministry may take a re-look if provided with adequate information.

Mathew says all the other 34 movies that made the cut contained exactly the same information. " In 12 years this is the first time that a film has not been allowed. We are only required to provide a written synopsis... so why is this movie being singled out? It's definitely got to do with the current political climate."

According to the Centre for Civil Society, which organises the documentary festival — be held from 30 October 1 November at Siri Fort Auditorium — is " based on the struggles of marginalised people, and highlights issues of entrepreneurship, livelihood, education and gender."

The makers of the film — recent graduates of the School of Media and Cultural Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) — said the ministry’s decision had taken them aback. "We are shocked and upset after we came to know about this news. We made this documentary from August to September 2014, before beef was banned in Maharashtra. We took almost three months for making this documentary and it was sparked by a row on the TISS campus in 2014 after some students demanded that beef and pork be banned,” said Atul Anand, one of the film makers, on Facebook.

According to a synopsis of the movie it “delves into the idea of food as a site of exclusion by focusing on beef-eating practices in Mumbai”. It attempts to portray the prevalence of caste differentiations as seen in the food choices of people in the city, and touches upon concerns related to livelihood, social inclusion and human rights. By tracing the mythological and historical roots of the meat-eating culture in our country, the film discusses the hierarchy maintained by Brahminical preferences and its intended subversions."

The documentary was made by Ananyaa Gaur, Anurup Khillare, Atul Anand, Reetika Revathy Subramanian and Vaseem Chaudhary.

Read the news on The Huffington Post website.