Screening of Rajarhat landgrab film stopped: The not-so-subtle face of media censorship in India

April 22, 2011

This message, from the makers of the film Amader Jamite Oder Nagari which documents the brutal landgrab in Rajarhat by West Bengal government, gives an insight into the soft and hard terror faced by grassroots media workers throughout India. – Ed

Today (April 21), the screening of our film Amader Jamite Oder Nagari, a documentary on the land grab at Rajarhat by HIDCO, was forcibly stopped by the police. A DVD of the film has also been seized along with our projector, screen and other equipment necessary to conduct a screening. Additionally, we –Nilotpal Dutta, Secretary Rajarhat Jami Bachao Committe who organised the screening, Pramod Gupta, the director-producer of the film and Saikat Maitra, an anthropologist researching the land grab for his PhD thesis– have been threatened with arrest. We were asked to show a copy of the certificate of approval from the Film Censor Board of India. The police relented , eventually withdrew and released our equipments when the local people protested and called the local MP Kakoli Dastidar, who personally intervened.

The specific clause that all Indian films require a certificate of approval to be screened publicly was added almost overnight in 2004 during Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) when several films documenting the carnage in Gujarat by the Narendra Modi government threatened to expose realities which had been systematically suppressed by the then Indian government. It is interesting (and ironic) to see that the Left Front Government of West Bengal, which condemned the riots at Godhra then, now employing the strategies which were originally devised by the BJP led NDA government. In fact, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), had then also arranged extensive screenings of such documentaries throughout the state. Now that the work of the film and media activists in the state threaten to expose its own anti-people policies, which have remained largely opaque to the people of the state and the country, it does not hesitate to use the very strategies it had once criticized vehemently.

We strongly condemn such actions and join our voices to the thousands of filmmakers and cultural workers of the world who are fighting against the undemocratic efforts of governments to suppress cultural and political expression.

Please join us in condemning the actions of the West Bengal Police and the Left Front Government!

In solidarity,

Mrinal Jana
Pramod Gupta
on behalf of Alternative Media Initiative
9830411525

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The film is available online, embedded below and unfortunately unsubtitled as of now. For a comprehensive history of the Rajarhat landgrab, visit: http://sanhati.com/excerpted/945/

Rajarhat Land Acquisition: Part 1

Rajarhat Land Acquisition: Part 2