Thursday, June 1, 2006

Down with Da Vinci

Da Vinci code ban in India state

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. real life, does it mean anything at all?


Trip said...

I essentially agree with everything you say. there must be true tolerance. However, what do you mean by tolerance? if someone wants to spread their faith, allowing them to do so is tolerance. but is abusing other's religion and their deities for promoting one's religion also tolerance? in such a scenario, who's at fault?

Similarly, if people of Gujrat don't want to watch or screen a movie, they are free to do so. remember, the govt has not banned it, the way da vinci is banned. And amir's statements were NOT humanitarian as being painted. its a political statement as he targeted one govt selectively. he did not say anything abt the riots in UP or the daily murders in kashmir and the various attacks on innocent people across india. if gujrtathis feel someone is playing politics, then its their right too to play the same. another very valid point is that the gujrat govt has done a better job of rehab that maharashtra and MP. this is also acknowledged by courts. in this light, and given that water is crucial for the people, amir's intentions become objectionable.

abt pope's sermon. he dared give it to India. but when the convert in afghanistan was facing death, all he said was to find him an asylum. so much for double standard and hypocrisy.

all i am saying is that one should not be selective. true tolerance can only come when we respect each others faith. is it too much to ask?

Mani said...

Human rights, Freedom of speech, artists' right to expression; words that were once considered revoltionary(?), words that were associated with people who wanted to honestly make a difference, are now uttered in the same breath as hypocrisy. Be it Rock and roll, Jouranalism, ideologies or religion each and every one of these "good/Right/True" things are infested with hypocrisy today.

If Hindus protest against against Deepa mehta's "Water", the New York times screams "Hindu Fundementalists protest violently..."

Why no one in the media (including the wine sipping journalist from NDTV and Times)used the word "Christian Fundamentalists protest over the D vinci Code" No one will understand. It is pointless to even begin a debate about the difference in content these films have. To initiate a debate on the content has nothing to do with freedom of expression. The moment you start to asses the content in a good/Bad kind of way, it deviates from the "right to expression" issue. I have not seen both as I personally believe either both should be banned or both should be shown without any cuts.
Such incidents will cause people to believe that the Indian government/Media is biased and will make other feel grumpy, to say the least!
On another note, I do feel that "right to expression" should not be abused by artists as well.