Perhaps I don't adequately understand the contours of religious discontent in India. But I have to say...I simply don't understand the threat governments see from screening The Da Vinci Code.
According to the BBC:
"The government of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has banned the release of the Hollywood film The Da Vinci Code ... The decision to ban the film followed appeals from local Christian leaders who felt that the film might hurt the community's religious sentiments. Tamil Nadu is the fourth Indian state that has banned the screening of the film, which was released last week."
I'm just sick of...well, I guess it might be the sheer size of the democracy. I mean, don't get me wrong. I believe in democracy. I don't want any other system of governance. But when there's more than a billion people in a country, everything is always both true and false.
It would be one thing if the government was being consistent; say, they ban The Da Vinci Code and also admit that there are reasons to believe that communal disharmony is a tangible threat. This is not at all the case.
Exhibit A: India protests over pope comments. What did popey poo say? He criticized India in a speech for what he called "disturbing signs of religious intolerance." It could be construed as a potshot at the BJP (a Hindu fundamentalist party), or as an acknowledgment of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, sparked off by the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims which may or may not have been caused by Muslims, as was suggested by some.
Any way you slice it, it seems that on one hand, Indian leaders are trying to prevent discord among India's panoply of faiths, as well as deny the existence of any problem.
(An aside: Are religious tolerance and freedom of expression mutually exclusive? Is it intolerant to ban a movie seen as betraying some religious sentiments, or is it just undue censorship? If we are free to worship, are we also not free to dissent?)
Exhibit B: Aamir Khan, a Bollywood star whose recent movie Fanaa was boycotted in Gujarat. Why? He made a completely benign statement about restitution for people displaced from their land by a dam project (think Arundhati Roy's constant spiel); thrown in there somewhere was a blanket statement that he thought it was bad that people died in 2002's violence. In a BBC interview, Khan states:
"I think it is (Vadodara incident) very sad and what happened in Gujarat a few years ago was also equally unfortunate. It's a shame that the administration is not able to control the situation there and it is resulting in deaths of innocent people ... It doesn't matter which religion these victims belong to. The bottom line is they are all human beings. It seems to me that the law and order machinery or the administration is simply not capable of controlling the situation."
To ban his movie in the state because he expressed sympathy is reprehensible. I hear everyday tolerance this, multiplicity that. But...in real life, does it mean anything at all?