Over 150 filmmakers and artists have written a letter to Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu urging him to allow screening of three films at Kerala film festival which they claimed were denied permission by the government.
The films were about suicide of a Dalit research scholar Rohit Vemula, student protests at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the unrest in Kashmir through the eyes of young artists.
The recent letter to Naidu, who holds the portfolio of Information and Broadcasting, said the three films were "dealing with prominent political issues" that have led to "much discussion" within the country.
It alleged the the government was "resorting to draconian action to stifle all such political debate" and the article which guarantees the right to freedom of expression to every citizen.
Claiming that the ministry has not given any reason for "withholding of screening permission", the letter said, "We want to question the basis for denying screening permission to these films."
The 160 artists said they unequivocally condemned the action and lent unqualified support to the festival and the filmmakers who are being prevented from screening their films.
"We urge the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to immediately issue an exemption letter to the three films and ensure that films at festivals do not face arbitrary censorship in future," the artists said.
The film which were denied screening permission were 'In the Shade of Fallen Chinar', 'The Unbearable Being of Lightness' and 'March, March, March'--related to Kashmir, Vemula and JNU respectively.
At least 262 short films and documentaries are expected to be screened in the five day 'International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) 2017' that kicks off today.
The film festival is organised by the Kerala State Chalachithra Academy, a body under the state government's Department of Cultural Affairs.
Films screened at the festival do not require a certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) but need a censor exemption certificate from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to be screened at the festival.