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Why is India’s Censor Board Refusing To Certify ’Flames of the Snow’, a documentary on Nepal ?

by sacw.net, 10 July 2010

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Press Release

Censor Board denies certificate to "Flames of the Snow"

Says, film justifies Maoist ideology

New Delhi, June 22, 2010: Indian Censor Board has refused to certify ‘Flames of the Snow’, a documentary on Nepal, for public screening. The Board feels that the film ‘tells about Maoist movement in Nepal and justifies its ideology.’ It feels that ‘keeping in view the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the country’, the permission of its public screening can not be given. Produced under the joint banner of ‘GRINSO’ and ‘Third World Media’, the 125 minute film has been produced by Anand Swaroop Verma, a senior journalist and expert on Nepalese affairs. He has also written the script for the film. The film has been directed by Ashish Srivastava.

Reacting to the decision of the Board, Mr. Verma said it is quite surprising as the film does not have any reference at all to the current Maoist movement in India. The film is only about the struggle of the people of Nepal against the despotic Monarchy and the anarchic reign of Ranas. With the formation of Nepal in the year 1770 by Prithvi Narayan Shah, the foundation was laid for Monarchy in Nepal which was finally given a burial in the year 2008 when Nepal was declared a Republic. Thus 238 years of Monarchy also included 105-year rule of Rana dynasty which is known as the black chapter in the history of Nepal.

Talking about the film, Mr. Verma further said that the film actually shows how in 1876 Lakhan Thapa, a young man from Gorkha district organized the peasants against the atrocities being unleashed by the rulers of Rana dynasty and was, later, put on gallows by these rulers. Even today, Lakhan Thapa is remembered as the first Nepali martyr. Exploring the movements led by ‘Praja Parishad’ and ‘Nepali Congress’ against the despotic system, the film focuses on the armed struggle carried on under the leadership of the Maoists for 10 years and unfolds the story of how the movement mobilized the Nepalese people by first attacking and dismantling the feudal system in the rural areas and subsequently taking the people’s movement to the urban areas bringing more urbanites into its fold.

The film begins with the establishment of monarchy in Nepal, further touching the developments like the elections for the constituent assembly, the emergence of Maoists as the largest party in the elections and finally ends by showing the decline and complete disappearance of Monarchy and Nepal being declared a Republic.

Taking note of the objections put forward by the Censor Board, it seems that the Board will never give its certification to any political film made on Nepal since no political film on Nepal can escape underlying the prominent role of Maoists. Maoist party was heading the government in Nepal till May 2009 and even today is the largest party in the Constituent Assembly and is the main opposition party. Moreover its president Pushp Kamal Dahal ‘Prachand’ as the Prime Minister of Nepal had visited India on the invitation of the Government of India.

Mr Verma is now submitting his film to Revising Committee of the Board.

correspondence with censor board

Indian censor board rejects film on Nepal Maoists

June 24th, 2010 / IANS

Kathmandu, June 24 – Citing the growing Maoist violence in some states of India as the reason, authorities in New Delhi have refused to allow public screenings of a documentary on Nepal that depicts the Maoist insurgency in this country in a series of uprisings against dictatorship, finally ending in the abolition of monarchy. New Delhi’s Central Board of Film Certification, whose approval is mandatory to screen films in India, has denied permission to ‘Flames of the snow’, a 125-minute documentary directed by New Delhi-based Ashish Srivastava, formerly associated with
Discovery channel, and Anand Swaroop Verma, Indian activist and journalist who is close to the Nepal Maoists ideologically.

‘The film tells about the Maoist movement in Nepal and justifies its ideology,’ the board informed Verma, explaining why it had decided to withhold permission. ‘In the opinion of the examining committee, any justification or romanticisation of the ideology of extremism or of violence, coercion, intimidation in achieving its objectives would not be in the public interest, particularly keeping in view the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the country.’
‘It’s a case of being more loyal than the masters,’ Verma told IANS. ‘The film is about the history of Nepal with Maoist movement being a part of it. It does not contain a single reference to the Maoist movement in India.’
The film begins with the founding of the Shah dynasty in 1770 by the first powerful king of the clan, Prithvi Narayan Shah. It covers nearly 250 years of absolute rule, first by the kings and then by the Rana prime ministers, punctuated with people’s rebellions and ending with the end of the royal line.

The first notable uprising occurred in 1876 when Lakhan Thapa, a peasant from Gorkha, the same district from where the Shah kings hailed, organised fellow peasants against the atrocities of the Rana rulers.
But the movement was put down with swift brutality and Thapa was hanged, in a move reminiscent of the peasant uprisings against British rule in India. The pro-democracy movements were then spearheaded by the political parties in 1950 and 1990, finally leading to an armed movement by the Maoists for 10 years from 1996.

The film ends with the formal abolition of monarchy after a historic election in 2008 that also saw the Maoists emerge victorious to head the new government. ‘Flames of the snow’ produced by a Kathmandu-based human rights organisation, Group for International Solidarity, Nepal, was screened in Kathmandu in April 2008, during the last days of the Maoist government when it was watched by the Maoist top leadership. It includes an interview with Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, describing the genesis of the armed movement.

‘The Censor Board objection is absurd,’ Verma said. ‘It means the board will never give its certification to any political film made on Nepal since there can’t be any political film on Nepal without mentioning the Maoists, who have now become part of the history of Nepal. When you acknowledge Nepal as a republic, you have to also acknowledge the Maoist movement that led to it.’

Verma also says that Nepal’s Maoists are no longer an armed party. They took part in the elections in 2008 and led the government till May 2009.
Verma has appealed against the board’s decision to the Revising Committee of the board. ‘I am going to start a campaign and go to the tribunal,’ Verma told IANS.

The Indian censors’ decision comes even as films made on the Maoist movement in India have been given the green signal. Earlier this year, the Indian Cultural Centre in Kathmandu showed ‘Hazar chaurasi ki maa’, the Govind Nihalani film that is sympathetic to the Naxalite movement of the 1970s, as part of the Indian film festival in Kathmandu.

Next month, Indian film director Ananth Mahadevan’s ‘Red Alert: the War Within’, a film focusing on the impact of the armed movement in rural India releases in India.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s at ians.in)

The Hindu

Censor board rejects film on Nepali Maoists

Special Correspondent/ June 26, 2010

Citing the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the country, the censor board has refused to certify a documentary film which it feels justifies the ideology of the Maoist movement in Nepal.

“It does not have a single word about the Indian Maoist movement. I could have juxtaposed it, but I specifically did not do it,” says Anand Swaroop Verma, the frustrated producer of the film ‘Flames of the Snow: Revolution in Nepal’. “It is a chronological history of the Nepali people’s struggle against autocratic regimes.” Central Board of Film Certification chairperson Sharmila Tagore says “India does defy definition,” indicating that something which justifies the Nepali movement may also reflect on its Indian counterparts. “Are there similarities in the ‘-ism’? Can parallels be drawn,” she asks. “I do feel that there sometimes has to be some restriction in view of peace, of law and order — the bigger picture.” She will personally view the film when the Reviewing Committee considers Mr.
Verma’s appeal next week.

The board communicated its refusal to certify the film for public screening on June 14, after a four-month period during which consultations were held with the Ministry of External Affairs, a former Ambassador to Nepal who gave his objections in writing, and experts on Maoists and Nepal.

“In the opinion of the Examining Committee, any justification or romanticisation of the ideology of extremism or of violence, coercion, intimidation in achieving its objectives would not be in the public interest, particularly keeping in view the recent Maoist violence in some parts of the
country,” said the board’s letter, which also quoted the Cinematograph Act’s provision that a film must not be “against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order …”

Given the sensitivity of the issue and the current Maoist violence, the Examining Committee may have erred on the side of caution. “There is no intention to muzzle anyone,” says Ms. Tagore. “The problem may have been that it wasn’t a balanced film. It may have been entirely
pro-Maoist.” Mr. Verma admits that while he has been writing about Nepal for the past 30 years, he is also a known Communist who has written extensively on Indian Maoists, though he is “critical of them on some issues.” However, he reiterates that his film simply tracks the history of Nepali people’s movements from the 1770s, including the peasant movement which produced the “first martyr” Lakhan Thapa, the Praja Parishad and Nepali Congress movements, and finally the Maoist armed
struggle and the toppling of the monarchy, ending with the proclamation of the republic in 2008.

“It is not possible to make any film on Nepal’s history or politics without mentioning Maoists,” he says, adding the Maoists are a legitimate movement, with the largest number of seats in the Assembly. “India has even welcomed a Nepali Maoist Prime Minister,” he points out. Mr. Verma has appealed the decision to the Revising Committee, and if the film is rejected again, he will take his case to the appellate tribunal and courts.

UPDATE - 16 July 2010:

Nepal Maoist movie wins battle with Indian censors

Indo-Asian News Service, July 16, 2010 (Kathmandu)

Read more at: http://tinyurl.com/2gx3dma