Indian censor board rejects film on Nepal Maoists

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By Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu, June 24 (IANS) 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 [email protected])