That’s what competitive intolerance is turning India into

The reason why India has a censor board is so that a group of reasonable, responsible and representative citizens can act as guardians of public morality of the cinematic kind. Whether censorship itself is desirable or not, entrusting the job to a censor board is far better than entrusting it to one person or group.That’s one reason Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, India’s minister for information and broadcasting, should have left The Da Vinci Code to the censor board. Instead, not only did he ask the censor board to hold back from making its call, he also announced that a final decision on its screening will be made after he has watched it in the company of members from the Catholic church.

Meanwhile, that movie will be released worldwide, with simultaneous screenings not only in Rome, but also in many Catholic majority countries. If the Minister and the ministers give it a thumbs down after their joint viewing session, the UPA government would have succeeded in turning India into a laughingstock. Not least because Dan Brown’s book is available in bookstores and streetcorners.

India has always been a religious society. The problem is not so much religiosity itself, but the exhibitionist intolerance that arises from the politicisation of religion. Indeed, this has unleashed competitive intolerance, where each community seeks to outdo the other in demonstrating thinness of skin and thereby, its political weight. (We got a movie banned. You? Ah! We burnt down a library) The culture of community-based entitlements that the UPA government has cynically encouraged only ensures that communities of every stripe have every incentive of putting up an agitated show of displeasure to signal their demands to be counted.

Dasmunshi’s decision to seek the Catholic church’s approval sets a troublesome precedent. If he applies this principle across the board, Dasmunshi will be watching many movies in the company of any number of interest groups whose fragile sentiments may have been hurt by filmmakers. The censor board should be allowed to do its job without political interference. Its decisions can always be challenged in the judiciary. India has an institutional mechanism to deal with such things as controversial films. The Catholic Church of India is not a part of that.

Related Links: Reuben Abraham, Patrix and JK and Gaurav Sabnis are all outraged. Atanu Dey had written about this sometime ago. Naveen Mandava discusses it in the context of rule of law and economic freedom.

30 Responses to Laughingstock

  1. Prasanna 17th May 2006 at 16:12 #


    Here’s the best part – most people calling for the ban wouldn’t have gotten even within a foot of the book. Much less seen the movie.

    And the Indian government perhaps forgets that for the amount of diversity we have, every which group can get “offended” for one silly reason or another.

  2. RS 17th May 2006 at 16:45 #

    If one has unflinching faith in one’s religion nothing can shake it. Are the christians so week in their faith that they fear some novel and a movie on their faith that is not according to their holy book?

  3. Pankaj 17th May 2006 at 17:10 #


    The next film Dasmunshi is going to watch with learned and esteemed gentlemens is “Flight 93”.

    After all, wasn’t 9/11 a dirty Jewish conspiracy for islamists around the world. The filmmaker provides an “american view” of the terror attack, our sentiments are hurt, and so would run the argument. All this is off-course guesswork. But anything can happen in todays India.

  4. Nitin 17th May 2006 at 17:10 #


    I don’t think it is a matter of faith at all. The outfit that is stridently agitating against the movie, the Catholic Secular Forum, is simply seeking political weight. Just like its counterparts.

  5. akash 17th May 2006 at 17:15 #

    first the defence minister saw RDB for free and now the minister for information and broadcasting is doing the same. very bad precedent indeed.

  6. RS 17th May 2006 at 17:21 #

    CSF and political weight? Just how many seats do Christian areas in India have in the LS? I think we can count them on our fingers! Maybe the present the govt emboldens them to protest.

  7. Apollo 17th May 2006 at 19:19 #

    hahahaha ;). i have been rolling on the floor and laughing ever since i heard this news. the rest of the world is still wondering whats going on. once they realise it. i’am sure they will join me too.

  8. Niraj 17th May 2006 at 21:01 #

    The Indian government is simply passing the buck to the Catholic groups. By letting the Catholic Church essentially make the decision, the Indian government can wash its hands of the whole thing. It is act of cowardice, pure and simple.

  9. Chandra 17th May 2006 at 22:41 #

    Why is this surprising anyone? Isn’t this how Congress I works? There is plenty of precedent to this – banning Rusdie from the country because some Mullahs though his fictional book was offensive without reading the book; creating separate laws for a section of people. Now the fictional movie is offensive although people who saw it thought it was pretty boring movie – this is actually small change.

    Imagine if some silly Hindu group wanted to stop Hinduism being portrayed as evil in high school textbooks. Suddenly they become right wing saffron bridges and face of intolerance and hatred and, of course, anti-secular.

    I don’t think we can claim to be free, secular, and democratic country if a small interest group can dictate what the rest do in their lives.

  10. ankan 18th May 2006 at 01:36 #

    This is secularism for you folks. Good for India!

  11. nandya 18th May 2006 at 06:46 #

    WHY DO U CARE ABT WHAT other countries think……damn…cmon live for urself….why do we care if we are laughingstock…..still trying to please others are we…i dont have a problem with the post…i have a problem with ur attitude….get out of the bootlicking attitude

  12. Nitin 18th May 2006 at 08:58 #


    It is important not to be presuming things when you attack ‘attitudes’. And it doesn’t hurt to be polite.

    That “bootlicking attitude” you saw may be a figment of your own complexes. For I think we’re become a laughingstock in our own eyes.

    And since you brought it up, to be sensitive to how the world perceives you is important in a whole lot of ways — from economic growth to diplomacy. If you can’t see the difference between sensitivity to international perceptions and bootlicking, I guess there is a problem. But that’s for you to solve.

  13. Prasanth 18th May 2006 at 09:53 #


    By that measure, the government should ban the Constitution of India too. After all, it talks about being a “secular democracy” and respect for all religions etc which are against the sentiments of certain religions ;D



  14. Apollo 18th May 2006 at 11:39 #


    i do care about what the rest of the world thinks. the UPA is playing with india’s honour and projecting us as a “Banana Republic” to the world.

    and it won’t hurt u if u r little polite on a online forum. remember there are real human beings here and not just Online identities.

  15. Kaul 18th May 2006 at 11:49 #

    I agree, Apollo.
    Nothing wrong with [finally] caring about how others see us.
    Hey, I will take anything that inspires us.

    And, Nandya, Even if you don’t care, it wouldn’t hurt to be a bit polite.

  16. Jatin 18th May 2006 at 14:47 #

    Personally its stupid to get riled up about fiction. However, speaking of Das Munshi, he destroyed Indian Football as the head of the Indian Football Association, i doubt he’ll do any worse with cable or movies.

  17. S Jagadish 18th May 2006 at 20:16 #

    The real reason is that the minister and the religious representatives are too poor to cough up money for the ticket.

  18. OrthoDoc 19th May 2006 at 02:54 #

    Personally, I think the I&B minister is making a mockery of the system. And we need to get our voices across to him. The censor board is in place to rate a film. Who gave him the rights to have a private screening and decide whether we get to see the film or not? This patronising attitude of our ministers must be severely criticised. If you do not like the film, in a democratic country like ours, you are permitted to shout from the roof of your house and let others know your opinion. But to force your opinion and judgement on free grown-up adults is completely unacceptable.

    Let us decide for ourselves whether the film merits our attention.

  19. nandya 19th May 2006 at 04:59 #

    yup…apologies indeed….unnecesarry my outburst….absolutely uncalled for…..

  20. nmandava 19th May 2006 at 12:22 #

    Nitin, good point!

  21. Vidyanath Tirumala 20th May 2006 at 02:55 #

    Nitin… that was a good read but a sad one at that.

    But think… It would not be long before pirated copies, DVD rips, cam prints etc will be everywhere. People who have never thought about seeing the movie, would now want to see it. A pirated CD costs less (IF you buy one) than a movie ticket, dont you think?

    Ok, now for 1 minute, try not to think of a monkey scratching its back.
    This issue is just the same. Trying to decide what people should watch, only makes them more curious.

  22. Zubeda 21st May 2006 at 04:44 #

    Its about whose shoes do we fill. When Hillary Clinton, “cracked” a joke about Mahatma Gandhi running a Gas Station in US, Indians (who form a negligble portion of US population) were offended. Dint’ we ask for a apology? and din’t we get it? Now in this situation where not us but some one else is in the receiving end, we think that makes “US” look bad in the eye’s of the world? Yes, may be the handling of this situation by our minister, is not the right way to go about. But don’t you think as diverse as our nation is, should’nt we be considerate how a situation affects other’s feelings?

  23. George 21st May 2006 at 15:17 #

    The catholic secular forum is just one of those needle sized catholic organistaions.Frankly i had no idea such an org had ever existed until the reccent da vinci code debate,however it is sad to see the cbci in the party.

  24. Gaurav 23rd May 2006 at 18:43 #


    Isn’t Catholic Secular Forum a contradiction in terms ?
    Ofcourse if we interpret secularism from actions of Indian state then existence of such pressure groups make perfect sense.


    But did Indians in US asked to ban Hillary Clinton


  25. Zubeda 24th May 2006 at 09:37 #

    I had noted in my post that “may be it is not the right way to go about the issue”. My response was for not offending people. Beleive it or not, the world that we live in, is “Banana Republic” and so is India.


  1. Atanu Dey on India’s Development » Still Laboring in Serfdom - 17th May 2006

    […] [The Acorn writes about the topic and warns of the dangers of competitive intolerance.] […]

  2. DesiPundit » Laughingstock - 18th May 2006

    […] Laughingstock Patrix on 05.17.06 in Governance, Religion at 11:51 am Dasmunshi’s decision to seek the Catholic church’s approval sets a troublesome precedent. If he applies this principle across the board, Dasmunshi will be watching many movies in the company of any number of interest groups whose fragile sentiments may have been hurt by filmmakers. The censor board should be allowed to do its job without political interference. […]

  3. varnam - 18th May 2006

    The new Argumentative Indian…

    In his book, Shivaji : Hindu King in Islamic India, James W. Laine presented a non-flattering view of Shivaji. Shivaji remains a “mountain rat”, a guerrilla of the hills and a narrow-minded fanatic Hindu rebel who, animated by vaulting ambitions……

  4. The Acorn » When activities become unconstitutional - 26th May 2006

    […] That is as it should be. The trouble is, that he is remarkably nonchalant when it comes to applying this rule to his own government. Since when did the Indian constitution give the heads of a religious community oversight over the Censor Board?  Home | Permalink |  […]

  5. The Acorn » Individualised hyper-sensitive private censor intrusion - 22nd June 2006

    […] Here’s what the good judge has to say tocompetitive intolerance (via Varnam): Rejecting the (state government’s arguments in support of the ban on The Da Vinci), Mr. Justice Raghu Ram, in his 48-page judgment, said, “The Constitution does not confer or tolerate such individualised hyper-sensitive private censor intrusion into and regulation of guaranteed freedom of others.” […]

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