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Growing harassment of documentary filmmakers in India

Message from Gaurav Jani, Praveen Kumar, Rakesh Sharma

Film-makers Rakesh Sharma, Gaurav Jani and Praveen Kumar yesterday (on Sept 14) registered their protest with the President of India during the National Film Awards ceremony organised by the Ministry for Information & Broadcasting. Each of them handed over a protest petition to the President as they went up to collect their awards. The film-makers were protesting against the growing harassment of documentary film-makers by the police and officials from the CBFC (Central Board for Film Certification). The full text of the protest petition is enclosed below.

Download Full Text of Petition

According to Rakesh Sharma, the recipient of the Special Jury award for his internationally-acclaimed film Final Solution, they were forced to take this unprecedented step as the Ministry has failed to address their concerns over the last couple of years. He said, “It is ironic that the President of India is recognising the technical and artistic merit of my film Final Solution by giving it an award, while the Government’s own Censor Board saw it fit to ‘ban’ the film. I certainly hope the President will turn her attention to the antiquated censor laws and order a thorough review. Stifling art and expression through censorship, whether legal or extralegal (by politically partisan groups) is a blot on our Democracy.”

According to Praveen Kumar, winner of two National awards for his film Naina Jogin, “The hallmark of a mature and robust democracy is freedom of thought and expression. It is sad that film-makers are now facing a growing intolerance, both by government officials and extralegal censors.”

Said Gaurav Jani, the winner of the Best Film award for his documentary Riding Solo to the Top of the World, “I hope the Government would at least now invite us and other film-makers for a dialogue.” Added Rakesh Sharma, “Instead of squandering away the tax-payers’ money to keep prolonging legal battles in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, it would’ve been far simpler for the Government to have consulted the film-making community before arbitrarily changing rules for the National Film Awards and making films made on the video format ineligible. It is truly bizarre that the protesting award-winners became eligible for the National Award only after approaching the High Courts” (See page 3 of the protest petition, detailing the lawsuits against the National Film Awards).

Rakesh Sharma (Tel: 098203 43103 and 022 65882504), Gaurav Jani (Tel: 09833013039), Praveen Kumar (Tel: 09869975222)


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