While everyone is hating on the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) for cutting out parts of that upcoming film they were excited to watch or complaining about how NDTV had to go off the air for 24 hours, we’re here to tell you that there’s another angle to these stories worth considering. Yes, censorship is suppressive, but many times it’s also necessary.
Securing sensitive military information, preventing the leak of our nation’s top secrets and upholding our integrity are and should be numero uno on the government’s priority list. It’s not always censorship, sometimes it’s just security.
In 2016, the Union Government suppressed Google’s appeal to launch the street view in India citing security and military reasons. Such image capturing provides a 360-degree panoramic view, which could be misused by the terrorists. It could help them plan terrorist attacks with accuracy. Especially after the terror attacks in Mumbai and Pathankot, where experts believe that the attackers performed virtual reconnaissance to get accurate information about locations and targets.
While the news channels are hungry for breaking news and high TRPs, national security often takes a back seat, that’s where the Government’s job comes in.
When a news channel breaches national security laws and reveals sensitive information, such as the location of an ammunition depot, it needs to be shut down first, questions asked later. This information in the hands of militants could spell disaster. The NDTV one-day blackout serves as a warning for all the media organizations to make sure their content isn’t at the cost of national security.
Considering that India is home to numerous religions, languages and cultural practices, even a very tiny spark can turn into a full-fledged fire of communal violence. It has been easy to orchestrate such clashes in the past, what stops them from happening again? That’s right, a lot of censorship. That’s why art and film depicting touchy topics are hushed. Take the recent example of the movie Padmavat portraying Rani Padmini and her ‘Jawhar’ (a traditional act similar to Sati), had to be edited. The Rajputs treat Rani Padmini like a goddess, seeing her fraternize with a Muslim invader would be blasphemous to them, it may spark violence all over west India. To avoid this, the authorities had to comply with the demands of the Rajput-led Karni Sena to maintain social peace and order.
Similarly, the Christian community was quick oppose the release of films like ‘Angel and Demons’, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ or ‘Sins’ which portrayed the Pope in a bad light, Jesus in a questionable manner and showing priests struggling with their sexuality. So, these films were banned in particular states of India to prevent hurting religious sentiments of the community.
It’s to avoid mayhem like this that the authorities and boards keep a check on publications, movies and speeches that could be misconstrued as offensive to religions and cultural sentiments.
Violent stunts, abusive words or gruesome acts performed on films can create an impression people’s minds. They can affect behavior consciously and sub-consciously. Movies that cover sensitive issues like drugs and alcohol abuse need to be filtered to prevent encouraging more such behavior rather than discouraging it. The impressionability of children and young adults makes this issue even more important.
Take the film Udta Punjab, which talked about the drug menace in the state of Punjab. Outrage over the 94 cuts imposed by the censor board on the film was widespread and while some of the cuts were unnecessary, others were vital. Seeing Shahid Kapoor play a rockstar that regularly snorts cocaine might inspire a fan to try it himself. While the film was produced to create awareness about the drug addiction, the uncensored version could have been counter-productive.
As per one Guardian article, the difference between exposure of sensitive information to a child and an adult is that children are more vulnerable to the effects of images of violence, child abuse, drugs, alcohol etc. Children viewing online pornography on the highly unregulated internet at a young age can distort the way they view sex and relationship. Movies like Gunday and Dill Kill which show scenes of a child murdering someone might be responsible for making children more violent and aggressive.
This may be true for adults too. Many believe that Bollywood is a big contributor to the rape culture in India. As an attempt to sway society against such evils, censorship is a necessity.
Lastly, it is worth remembering that we are living in a democracy where we have elected representatives, to act on our behalf. That’s the crux of democracy as well along with freedom of speech and expression which is often talked about. By casting your vote for the government, by extension, we thrust the responsibility of decision and policy making upon them. So, if a particular scene or book is censored, it is done taking the larger public interest into consideration and what impact it might have on the country. The lawmakers we choose draft out policies and laws which empower them to do what they do. For example, Section 95 gives the power to the state government to forfeit copies of newspapers or books indulge in obscenity, communal hatred, hurting religious beliefs etc. When something is censored by our government, it’s not a step closer to an autocracy, it’s just the democracy in function.
So, while we do enjoy the freedom of speech and expression, we also need to remember that apart from being the world’s biggest democracy, we also house various religions and cultures. So, no matter how much we hate suppression by the government, it is a necessary evil we must tolerate.