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Up in arms against the CBFC's move to red flag a documentary on Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen because of some words uttered by him in the film, West Bengal's civil society on Wednesday minced no words in terming it "fascism" and a "shameful example of audacity" of the powers that be.
Writers, thespians, historians, film makers were univocal in their condemnation after the Central Board of Film Certification raised objections to four words and expressions - "Gujarat", "Hindu India", "Hindutva" and "cow" - used by the renowned economist and writer in the course of an interview that was part of an hour long documentary by Suman Ghosh.
With Ghosh refusing to mute even a single word, the documentary "An Argumentative Indian" has not been cleared by the censor authorities.
"It is utter foolishness. If people can't express their views, then how can India be called democratic? And the person saying these words in the documentary is globally acclaimed and respected," said thespian Soumitra Chatterjee who was present at a special screening of the documentary on Monday.
"It is not grief, its anger. What else can you expect from those who are dictating what food to eat? This is a form of fascism," he said.
Octogenarian writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay urged the director to move the highest judiciary on the issue.
"There is no question of muting those words as they are not at all objectionable. I feel the director should challenge the CBFC's move in the Supreme Court to teach them a lesson," said Mukhopadhyay, a Sahitya Akedemi awardee.
"The people who cannot take the words of a world famous person like Amartya Sen are not just idiotic but also the flag bearers of a certain political ideology. Everyone should condemn it," he said.
Jnanpith awardee poet Sankha Ghosh was equally severe in his criticism.
"This is a shameful example of the extent to which their audacity has gone," said Ghosh.
Claiming that none of the four words in the film that has triggered the dispute are "obscene", veteran Bengali writer Nananita Deb Sen said by censoring these words the Centre is trying to censor the freedom of speech of Amartya Sen.
"These four words are not obscene or objectionable from any angle. They are used in common conversations all the time. The CBFC is trying to curb freedom of speech without bothering about the logic. Through this censorship they are actually trying to censor Amartya," claimed Deb Sen, also the first wife of the economist.
Historian and academician Sugata Bose said such form of censorship was "undesirable".
"In the present disturbing times, we need to attentively listen to every word that Amartya Sen says. He always gives the message of unity and amity.
"I heard objection was raised about his use of the word 'Gujarat'. But it is a historic truth. Why only Amartya Sen, we all have the right to mention it and criticise it."
Bose, a parliamentarian and Harvard university teacher, also rubbished the CBFC view that use of the words would sully the country's image.
"People are being killed now. I feel people who are orchestrating such incidents are damaging India's image worldwide. But if a message goes out that there are protests and resistance against these vile acts, this will prove that there is still freedom of expression in our country. This will in turn enhance our image worldwide".
The documentary has been structured as a free flowing conversation between Sen and his student and Cornell economics professor Kaushik Basu.