Modi govt has 'beef' with documentary, blocks screening at film festival, 30 October 2015

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has put on hold the screening of a documentary film that deals with beef-eating practices in Mumbai at a film festival in Mumbai.

According to reports from Indian media, the government led by Modi's Baharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which is under fire for rising intolerance and violence related to the slaughter of cows and consumption of beef in the Hindu-majority country – has disallowed permission for airing of the documentary made by students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

The film titled "Caste on the Menu Card" was to be screened on Saturday at the Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival 2015 in Delhi. However, the filmmakers say that they were told by organisers that they would need a censor certificate.

"Documentaries for public screening require an exemption certificate, which exempts you from having a censor certificate. We sent 35 films, but the information and broadcasting ministry rejected 'Caste on the Menu Card',” Snigdha Verma, one of the organisers of the festival, told The Hindu newspaper.

The documentary was the only film to be denied exemption from certification out of 35 entries sent to the Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry. According to reports, the ministry has denied exemption due to the "current political situation over the beef ban issue".

"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," Atul Anand, one of the filmmakers was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.

The incident comes amid widespread criticism of the BJP-led government over rising intolerance and communal tensions in the country.

On Thursday, over 50 top historians in India issued a joint statement criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his silence following concerns over a "highly vitiated atmosphere" in the country.

Last month, a violent mob in Dadri beat to death a 50-year-old Muslim man over rumours that he had eaten beef.

On Thursday, the editor of a magazine issued by the Haryana Education Department was fired by the government following a publication citing beef as one of the best sources to enhance the body's iron absorption.

Killing cows is banned in many states of India, a majority-Hindu country that also has sizeable Muslim, Christian and Buddhist minorities.

In March, the state of Maharashtra toughened its ban to make even possessing beef illegal, a move seen by religious minorities as a sign of the growing power of hardline Hindus since nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power.

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