Historians Romila Thapar and Irfan Habib, filmmaker Shyam Benegal and several other academicians and artistes today condemned the stalling of a documentary on Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, saying the censor board's "diktat" to mute four words uttered by the economist in the film was a threat to India's "most valuable traditions of free speech and debate". The Central Board of Film Certification's regional office here had asked Suman Ghosh, the director of the documentary, to mute the words cow, Gujarat, Hindutva and Hindu India. Ghosh yesterday said he would not comply with the direction. "We are shocked and angered by the CBFC demand that certain words be excised from a film based on the work of Amartya Sen.
The movie is titled after Sen's 2005 work--The Argumentative Indian--which was widely acknowledged for its deep and authentic explorations of India's traditions of public debate," the protesters said in a joint statement released by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT). The statement said the CBFC's "exertions under its current chair" had "long crossed the line from farce to tragedy". "With its diktat on The Argumentative Indian, the CBFC shows yet again that its anxiety to protect the sensitivities of the political regime overwhelm any manner of commitment to the constitution and the law. At risk in this plunge into absurdity, are our most valuable traditions of free speech and debate," it added. The film, 'The Argumentative Indian' -- structured as a conversation between Sen and economist Kaushik Basu -- was slated to have been released this weekend.