Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: Media

Relevance of CBFC

The controversy about Aarakshan has raised the question of relevance of CBFC. Once CBFC certifies a film there should be no problem about its release anywhere in India. However many people without seeing the film want the film to be banned. Some want special screening for them. It is bad for anyone to do that but worse when people in power do that. It is unpardonable for the home minister of state to say that films should be shown to certain politicians. It is unpardonable for other ministers to demand special screening and they will decide what should be shown. States should have no power to ban a CBFC certified film and those who create law and order problem should be strictly dealt with.

Many years back Sunil Gavaskar had said “Hindi films are made by asses for masses.”  At that time most Hindi films followed a formula. There was one hero, one heroine, one villain and some supporting characters. Hero loved heroine, villain came in between them and finally hero won. There were half a dozen songs and fights. Such films did not face any controversy. TV was black and white, restricted to a few cities for a few hours during night.

TV turned colour and channels proliferated. People who watched TV came to know about films to be released and those who protested about any song or film got publicity. Many films got into trouble.

P. L. Punia, Chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, summoned chairperson and CEO of CBFC and demanded the screening of the film. He asserted his authority under article 338 of the Constitution. The Commission originally did not have powers of a civil court and it got them after 65th amendment in 1990.

The release of Aarakshan was challenged in Bombay High Court which cleared the film. Leela Samson, chairperson of CBFC, said since the High Court has cleared the film she cannot make any changes.

Prakash Jha said Aarakshan is not about reservation, it is not pro-reservation or anti-reservation but about commercialization of education.  In that case he chose the wrong title and wrong promos. He succumbed to pressure and showed the film to some politicians and agreed to cuts. He said he had spent 60 crore rupees on film. Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh banned the film. In Punjab seven members of a committee selected to view the film took their family members and relatives with them.

Amitabh Bachchan questioned whether India is a democracy or a fascist state.  To call India a fascist state is an insult to fascist states. In fascist states people who oppose a film certified by a government body are put behind bars. India is a mobocracy.

The producer has to recover the money in the first week. After that pirated DVDs appear. People in states where the film is banned will be able to get them and watch the film. The ban will cause loss to the producer but people will watch the film anyway.

Death penalty is a deterrent

In one James Bond film it is said: Once can be happenstance. Twice can be coincidence. Thrice or more enemy is at work. On NDTV 24×7’s Left Right and Centre on three days Nidhi Razdan asked the question: Is death penalty a deterrent? She implied it was not. My answer is “Yes”.

First time Nidhi Razdan asked the question with regard to remarks by Justice Markandeya Katju about policemen who kill in fake encounters. He had said “Such policemen should be hanged. It is nothing but cold-blooded brutal murder, and yes, police personnel responsible should be hanged.” The discussion turned around fake encounters. Y. P. Singh said policemen do a noble job in an unethical way. It is a political call to control crime. The government of the day asks police to finish criminals. When there were gang wars in Bombay encounters took place and criminals disappeared.

There was no terrorist activity at the time. Later encounter specialists fell from grace. Encounters stopped. There were serial train blasts and 26/11. Last month there were three bomb blasts.

Second time was when it became known that Home Ministry has asked the President to reject Afzal Guru’s mercy petition. One panelist said he was opposed to death penalty in general. TSR Subramaniam said death penalty is given in rarest of rare cases and this is a rarest of rarest of rare case. Those who say Kashmir will go up in flames if Afzal Guru is hanged ignore the fact that Maqbool Butt’s hanging for the murder of Deputy High Commissioner Mhatre in Birmingham scared the living daylights out of JKLF.

Third time was on 11/8/2011. The President had rejected mercy petitions of three LTTE members. Renuka Chowdhury defended the decision. One panelist spoke of European Union and Gandhian philosophy. He forgot Gandhi’s killers were hanged. Ashok Desai and Nirmala Seetharaman were in favour of death penalty.

Opponents of death penalty engage in misinformation and disinformation.

First disinformation is that life sentence is worse than death penalty. It is not. Criminals don’t want to die and are happy to live in jail as long as they can. Some faint on the day of their hanging.

European Union (EU) countries have abolished death penalty. That is not a reason for India to abolish death penalty. We don’t have to follow EU countries. Some of them are bankrupt. Some are on the verge of bankruptcy. See the mess in England. During riots even rich people go to rob. In Norway some want death penalty for the terrorist who killed 76 people. China, USA, Japan and many other countries have death penalty. India is equal to all EU countries put together. EU is not paradise on earth.

Second disinformation is that murders have gone down in countries which abolished death penalty. Those who say that do not give any proof or lie about statistics.

Third disinformation is that death penalty does not serve any purpose of justice i.e., reformative, retributive and deterrent. Death penalty serves retributive and deterrent purposes.

There is misinformation that 26/11 terrorists were on a suicide mission. They were told to take some hostages. The government will negotiate and allow them to return. That did not happen. When a terrorist serves a life sentence there is the danger of abduction or hijacking for the release of the terrorist and the released terrorist killing many more. While nothing can be done about suicide bombers if those who send them are hanged that will reduce terrorists. Suicide bombers are given money and are told that their families will be taken care of once they die.

Some say a civilized country should not have death penalty. What is civilized about murder? Murder is a crime, pure and simple.

When death penalty was the norm there were not many encounter deaths and terrorist activities. After the Supreme Court strayed into the territory of executive and restricted death penalty to rarest of rare cases the situation changed.

In Pakistan there has not been death penalty for a long time and terrorism has increased. In Mexico murders multiplied after abolition of death penalty.

I have a suspicion that a lobbyist is behind the question.

Curious case of Khaled Chisti

On 22/6/2011 on NDTV 24×7’s Left Right and Centre the issue of showing mercy to Khaled Chisti was discussed. PM had written to Rajasthan’s Governor Shivraj Patil to release Khaled Chisti and Shivraj Patil had decided to seek legal advice. The question was whether India should show large-heartedness and release him on humanitarian grounds. The discussion led to some revelations.

Nidhi Razdan first asked audience members. One person said there are many Indians in Indian prisons in similar condition to that of Khaled Chisti. Nobody writes to PM about them. There should be common rule for all. One woman said she was fighting for justice and Pakistanis have carried out many terrorist activities in India. That meant he should not be released.

Nidhi Razdan asked Rajeev Shukla about releasing Khaled Chisti. Rajeev Shukla said Justice Markandeya Katju had sent his letter to PM through him through email and PM had replied to Markandeya Katju through him. So Rajeev Shukla was the intermediary between Markandeya Katju and PM.

The panellists were in agreement that Khaled Chisti be released on humanitarian grounds. Even BJP spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman did not mention exchanging Khaled Chisti for the release of Sarabjit Singh. Ravi Shankar Prasad had demanded that if Khaled Chisti had to be released it should be in exchange for Sarabjit Singh.

Vinod Sharma said Markandeya Katju was a Kashmiri Pandit and a Kashmiri Pandit getting a Pakistani prisoner released will make Pakistani people happy about India and Markandeya Katju had written to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari to release Gopal Das. Gopal Das was released after Manmohan Singh invited Pakistani leaders to attend Indo-Pak World Cup Semi-Final. That time nobody said anything about Markandeya Katju’s letter. Vinod Sharma was wrong when he said there was no terrorism 20 years back. Terrorism in Kashmir had got a boost when five terrorists were released to secure Rubiya Sayeed’s release in December 1989. Vinod Sharma is associated with Congress.

Siddharth Bhatia wanted Khaled Chisti released.

Till some days back nothing was heard about Khaled Chisti. How this issue suddenly became important is not clear. Rajeev Shukla is married to Ravi Shankar Prasad’s sister Anuradha. Shivraj Patil was Home Minister. There is more to the case than humanitarian consideration. Judges should not get entangled in such matters.

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