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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 08:57 GMT
Gujarat riots film banned
By Monica Chadha
BBC correspondent in Bombay

A documentary film based on interviews with survivors of religious riots in the Indian state of Gujarat last year has run into trouble with the Indian Censor Board.

A man walks past the debris of the riot
The violence devastated whole communities
The film has been denied a certificate of release because the board believes the film could incite religious tensions in the country.

This prevents the film makers from screening it anywhere within the country or outside of it.

The film Aakrosh (Outburst) is a 22-minute documentary based on interviews with survivors of the February riots.

Clashes between the Hindu and Muslim communities began after a train compartment carrying Hindu activists was burnt by a mob believed to have been Muslim, killing at least 58 people.

The riots in Gujarat led to around 2,000 deaths, most of them Muslims.

Survivors' tales

The state government and the police allegedly did nothing to bring the situation under control.

This way the common man could connect with what happened to these people
Ramesh Pimple
Film producer
The producer of the film, Ramesh Pimple said: "We shot extensively across the state while the riots were going on. We had footage that showed burnt homes, bodies, destroyed property but finally decided to zero in on tales of survivors coming from the lower strata of society.

"We thought this way the common man could connect with what happened to these people."

The documentary revolves around the voices of these people without disclosing their identities.

According to Mr Pimple, the censors "said this movie could incite religious tensions between the Hindu and Muslim communities and therefore, cannot be given a certificate.

"They did not ask for any cuts or omissions. I think the Gujarat state government or the central government does not want to encourage any activity that will remind people of what happened in the state during the riots."

'Negative impact'

However, a senior official of the Censor Board, VK Singla said: "There are certain guidelines a board adheres to when issuing a certificate to a documentary.

A Muslim woman and child in a refugee camp after the riots last year
Many people were made homeless after the riots
"The board looks at the facts presented and the message the film is trying to convey. We also look at the overall impact the film will have on society and if the impact is negative, then the movie is not allowed to be screened."

Teesta Setalvad, co-editor of Combat Communalism said the Censor Board was following a policy adopted by the central government to suppress films that portray them in a bad light.

"This is not the first movie that has not been issued a certificate. Several other films that show the government in an embarrassing position are either asked to be edited or not given a certificate," Ms Setalvad said.

The film makers have now appealed to the Review Committee of the Censor Board and are hoping for a positive decision by the end of this month.

They also plan on going to court and mobilising various groups in order to protest against the Board if the decision is not made in their favour.

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Doubts over Gujarat train attack
03 Jul 02 |  South Asia

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