A total of 160 filmmakers, artists and academics from across the country wrote to Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday over the issue of films being denied censor exemption at an upcoming film festival.
The five-day International Documentary and Short Film Festival Kerala (IDSSFK). is set to begin on June 16, in Thiruvananthapuram.
"We want to question the basis for denying screening permission to these films. A brief perusal of the themes of the films denied screening – the suicide of research scholar Rohit Vemula, on artists in Kashmir, and on the student protests at JNU – indicates that each one of these films is dealing with prominent political issues that have led to much discussion within the country. It is also clear that the government of the day is resorting to draconian action to stifle all such political debate and indeed Article 19 of our constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression to every citizen of this country," the letter reads.
Noting that the I&B Ministry has not given a clear reason for withholding screening permission, the letter adds, "We cannot support actions that deprive audiences of meaningful cinema and endanger the democratic values of our country."
"We urge the Ministry to immediately issue an exemption letter to the three films and ensure that films at festivals do not face arbitrary censorship in future," the letter concludes.
This comes a day after the filmmaker of the Rohith Vemula documentary, titled The Unbearable Being of Lightness, released it online.
Filmmaker Ramachandra PN's documentary is set in the aftermath of Vemula's death.
Earlier in the week, acclaimed Kerala film director Kamal, who is also the Chairman of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy had lashed out against the ministry's decision.
"This is some sort of a cultural emergency that is now prevailing in the country and we are facing it here," Kamal had told IANS.