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Bollywood film on caste stirs controversy in India

Tribal’s demand ban on ‘Aarakshan’ in J&K

Bureau Report
Agence India Press

Jammu/ Mumbai: Objecting to screening of Parkash Jha’s Movie “Aarkshan” (reservation) in different theatres of Jammu and Kashmir-the Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation – a main organisation of Scheduled Tribe – Gujjars and other marginalized groups today demanded immediate ban on showing film in the state as it hurts the sentiments of backward and suppressed sections of society.

“A team of our organisation who viewed the film today has decided to oppose the screening of controversial movie in sensitive State like J&K” said Dr. Javaid Rahi , Secretary of Tribal Foundation as some continents of movie hurt our souls, hearts and minds.

In a statement issued here Dr Rahi said that concept of reservation has not been properly projected in the film.

He further said that reservation is neither a charity nor an aid to weaker sections of societies.

“The concept of film was based on proportion of total population of a suppressed community fall under a particular category whereby a percentage of posts are reserved in admission, employment, promotion, Assemblies and Parliament,” said Rahi.

He further added that objective of the movie is to mitigate backwardness of the socially and educationally backward communities including Scheduled Castes and Tribes who do not have adequate representation in these services and institutions but this part is missing in the film.

ST/SC/OBC constitutes a substantial chunk of J&K’s population so government should respect our sentiments and ban screening of Aarakshan in the state.
He said since three Indian states have banned a new film on the controversial issue of reservation / quotas for low-caste people, J&K Government should take action on priority.

The northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, and Andhra Pradesh banned the film due to fears it may cause law and order problems.
Tribal Foundation demanded immediate ban as this is in public interest, taking into account certain objectionable dialogues and scenes that are against Dalits and suppressed classes,”

Meanwhile, filmmaker Prakash Jha on Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking its direction to lift the ban on Aarakshan.

Aarakshan is the film that explores caste-based quota system for the socially backward classes, in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, after he was forced to drop some scenes deemed offensive to certain caste groups to ensure the film’s smooth release elsewhere in the country.

According to Agence India Press, the Censor Board with a U /A certificate cleared Aarakshan, but it ran into trouble soon after Jha released the film’s first trailer. It triggered off angry protests by caste groups apprehensive the film will portray them in a negative light because of certain scenes and dialogue in the controversial take on affirmative action.

The film stars Amitabh Bachchan as an idealistic schoolteacher, Saif Ali Khan as a Dalit teacher romancing Deepika Padukone, who plays Bachchan’s daughter in the film.

Both Uttar Pradesh and Punjab go to polls next year and the leaders have the caste minorities in mind as they protest the film’s supposed caste discrimination. However, Jha said the protests are premature and the film should be judged only after it is screen all over India.

Jha has also maintained that his film is balanced and shows reservation as a “Constitutional truth.” About 160 million Indians or 16 per cent of the population are Dalits, according to the 2001 census.

“While the overall theme of the film is not objectionable, it is loaded with anti-Dalit and anti-reservation dialogues,” PL Punia, the chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes told local media. “Aarakshan has failed.

Prakash Jha should be prepared for a political debate when making a movie on a sensitive subject. It is likely to create communal tension,” Punia added.

Police have been posted outside the homes of the leading actors to prevent any flare-up in violence. Security was stepped up outside the two homes of Bachchan in Mumbai.
India has a history of banning controversial films. The film Kissa Kursi Ka, directed by Amrit Nahata never saw the light of day after the government banned it and confiscated all prints. In 2006,

The Da Vinci Code by Ron Howard, who adapted author Dan Brown’s mega-selling novel to the big screen, faced global protests by religious groups and in India the government decided to allow the screening with a disclaimer saying it was a work of fiction. Some states still went ahead with the ban.

It remains to be seeing what action the SC takes and whether it will come as a relief to Jha. The Bombay High Court had this week lifted the ban on the film in Maharashtra and Jha on Thursday reached a deal with RPI activists for its smooth release, agreeing to cut some scenes. (AIP)

http://www.agenceindiapress.com

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