The Almighty Central Board of Film Certification (peace be upon it)

"In a country where the lingam and the yoni are publicly worshipped and where a book on Kama Sutra has been written, what will happen if a couple is shown kissing as a mark of love and affection? Surely the Ganga will not be on fire!"
G. D. Khosla, former Indian chief justice and chairman of an enquiry committee on film censorship.

The above question by G. D. Khosla epitomizes the whole problem with Indian CBFC (peace be upon it) and the way it treats adults as nothing but nursery sheeps, incapable of deciding for themselves and always looking up at an higher authority for viewing tips. The underemployed at the CBFC (peace be upon it) proudly boasts on its website,
Film censorship becomes necessary because a film motivates thought and action and assures a high degree of attention and retention as compared to the printed word. The combination of act and speech, sight and sound in semi darkness of the theatre with elimination of all distracting ideas will have a strong impact on the minds of the viewers and can affect emotions. Therefore, it has as much potential for evil as it has for good and has an equal potential to instill or cultivate violent or good behaviour. It cannot be equated with other modes of communication. Censorship by prior restraint is, therefore, not only desirable but also necessary.

And who is this almighty deciding what is good for adult's emotions, morale, public order etc ? It's whoever is the current King or Queen of CBFC (peace be upon it). As of March 2007, its Sharmila Tagore (peace be upon her).

In a recent interview with Karan Thapar, she mentioned that "Indians are not ready for it (porn) ". IMHO, if Indians were ready for a two piece (gorgeous) bikini bomb in Evening in Paris in 1967, it is high time Vijay Anand is taken seriously and the Cinematograph Act of 1952 be revised and adult entertainment industry managed with a XA rating rather than banned outright. Click here for some other interesting story surrounding Vijay Anand's resignation from CBFC (peace be upon it). Coming back to our topic, this infallible Mother Lady (peace be upon her) now decides what is good taste and what is bad, what movies can potentially affect your wisdom, what can affect your subhuman sensibilities and what can deprave you of your morals, what words or actions cater to your inner Satanic subliminals and so on. Here is the complete requirements for a film from the CBFC (peace be upon it) website.

(i) anti social activities such as violence are not glorified or justified

(ii) the modus operandi of criminals, other visuals or words likely to incite the commission of any offence are not depicted;

(iii) scenes
  1. showing involvement of children in violence as victims or perpetrators or as forced witnesses to violence, or showing children as being subjected to any form of child abuse;
  2. showing abuse or ridicule of physically and mentally handicapped persons; and
  3. showing cruelty to, or abuse of animals, are not presented needlessly

(iv) pointless or avoidable scenes of violence, cruelty and horror, scenes of violence primarily intended to provide entertainment and such scenes as may have the effect of de-sensitising or de-humanising people are not shown;

(v) scenes which have the effect of justifying or glorifying drinking are not shown;

(vi) scenes tending to encourage, justify or glamorise drug addiction are not shown;

(vi-a) scenes tending to encourage, justify or glamorise consumption of tobacco or smoking are not shown;

(vii) human sensibilities are not offended by vulgarity, obscenity or depravity;

(viii) such dual meaning words as obviously cater to baser instincts are not allowed;

(ix) scenes degrading or denigrating women in any manner are not presented;

(x) scenes involving sexual violence against women like attempt to rape, rape or any form of molestation or scenes of a similar nature are avoided, and if any such incidence is germane to the theme, they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details are shown

(xi) scenes showing sexual perversions shall be avoided and if such matters are germane to the theme they shall be reduced to the minimum and no details are shown

(xii) visuals or words contemptuous of racial, religious or other groups are not presented

(xiii) visuals or words which promote communal, obscurantist, anti-scientific and anti-national attitude are not presented

(xiv) the sovereignty and integrity of India is not called in question;

(xv) the security of the State is not jeopardized or endangered

(xvi) friendly relations with foreign States are not strained;

(xvii) public order is not endangered

(xviii) visuals or words involving defamation of an individual or a body of individuals, or contempt of court are not presented
EXPLANATION: Scenes that tend to create scorn, disgrace or disregard of rules or undermine the dignity of court will come under the term 'Contempt of Court' : and

(xix) national symbols and emblems are not shown except in accordance with the provisions of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 (12 of 1950)

I am wondering if there is ANY movie which does not violate atleast one of the above. The sad part is that the Indian CBFC (peace be upon it) is a certification agency, as opposed to say MPAA in USA which is a rating agency. If a film does not pass the CBFC (peace be upon it) litmus test, there is no way anybody in India can legally see it. Whereas, filmmakers in USA are not bound by any laws to get certified. Even the MPAA ratings are completely voluntary.

We are over 50 years old since gaining independence from British. But a long way from gaining independence from the underemployed at CBFC (peace be upon it) and deciding for ourselves, as adults, what to see and what not.


South Park says the nigger word!

South Park, known for its shock-valued take on contemporary events, used the nigger word 42 times overall in their latest episode With Apologies to Jesse Jackson, much less than the 162 times they used the shit word in their episode "It hits the fan".

Many blacks are glad that Comedy Central decided to air this. Even the founders of abolishthenword.com found the usage of n-word in this episode appropriate. See the CNN commentary below.

With its mostly intelligent, single-standard, sarcastic take on events and personalities, South Park has managed to piss off just about anybody on this planet including Catholics, Scientologists, Mel Gibson, Muslims, Atheists etc, I wonder who on earth is left for them. I just love it.


Questions of King Milinda

Nagasena: Well, O king, will sticks and clods and cudgels and clubs find a resting-place in the air, in the same way as they do on the ground ?
Milinda: No, Sir.
Nagasena: But what is the reason why they come to rest on the earth, when they will not stand in the air ?
Milinda: There is no cause in the air for their stability, and without a cause they will not stand.
The Questions of King Milinda

I just came across these verses mentioned at the beginning of a chapter on General Relativity in this book. The chapter continues:
Aristotle and Newton held that things fall because they are pulled to the earth; Nagasena the sage and Einstein, that they fall because nothing stops them from falling. The difference is a profound one.
Nagasena was a buddhist who lived around 150 BCE, whose answers to questions on Buddhism posed by the Indo-Greek king Menander I, a.k.a Milinda in Pali, are collected in Milinda Panha.

You can obtain a full copy of this beautiful text at sacred-texts.com. Ofcourse, Nagasena, more than 2000 years before Einstein was making a philosophical statement and not a quantifiable, verifiable, scientific law :) But that shouldn't make it less interesting.


Ravan hero and Ram Lakshman devil duos!

Check out this CNN-IBN video about a tribe in Melghat district in Maharashtra who celebrate holi by burning effigies of Ram and Lakshman.

Says a tribe member, Khanu Betkar, "Ram and Lakshman burnt Ravana, so that is why we burn them."

It's the biggest festival of the year for these villagers and celebrations go on for seven days. The tribe members dance all night and sing hymns hailing Ravana.
Holy cow! That's as blasphemous as it can get. Read the complete news article here. I am just waiting for our dear testosterone charged culture cops RSS/VHP to make some stupid funny statement like "these tribals are actually western/pakistani agents trying to spoil our innocent youth by spreading anti-Indian propaganda!"


Christians demand subsidy to Bethlehem!

Updates: Please see some updates at the end of this article.

Till now, Indian government has been subsidising Haj trip for muslims, Kailash Manasarovar trip for hindus, setting up facilities for Kumbh Mela etc. Infact, if you are a pilgrim to Manasarovar from Delhi, Gujarat or UP, you get an additional subsidy from your state. And now, christians have rightfully started demanding subsidy to Bethlehem. Let me break these down.

So how much does a Haj pilgrim get from the Indian government ? For 2005, it was Rs. 20, 000 per person on a Rs. 92, 000 Haj package by the government appointed Haj committee. The Rs. 20, 000 which the government subsidises is actually what the government pays to (again government owned) Air India already overpriced tickets. For the same year, the total government subsidy for Haj totalled to Rs. 225 crores for a total of 100,000 people. Click here for a pdf file of the Expenditure Budget 2005-2006, Volume I, from the Ministry of Finance website. Since the Air India tickets are overpriced compared to other airlines, it is reasonable that some feel it is a scam to make up for airline losses. Even BJP's muslim face, Muqhtar Abbas Naqvi shares this view. Here is an interview of Naqvi by hindu.com .

How much does one get for Kailash Manasarovar trip ? The three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, when deciding on the Haj subsidy for 2006 asked Mr. Vahanvati how much the government spends per person on KM. For 2006, it was Rs. 3200. You can read more details here. This is slightly less than the Rs. 3250 per person subsidy for KM in 2001 according to Ministry of External Affairs website. On a per person basis, it is lower compared to what a Haj pilgrim gets. But, if you are from Delhi, Gujarat or UP, after adding state subsidies, you pretty much get more than what a Haj pilgrim gets. Gujarat gave Rs. 20,000 to its 198 Manasarovar pilgrimers. The trip usually costs around Rs. 80, 000 per person. This subsidy for 2006 was much higher if you were from Madhya Pradesh , which decided to give a 50% subsidy for the year 2006.

How much does a hindu get ? This is a tricky question, primarily because its hard to get facts and figures from government sources. If you add up the government spendings, both in terms of per person subsidies and facilities like sanitation, medical etc on Manasarovar, Kumbh Mela, it probably should add up to lots more compared to what muslims get. According to this blogger, the government spending on Kumbh Mela alone was around Rs. 1200 crore. But then, one also needs to take into account what various state governments get from temples like Sabarimala, Tirupathi etc.

How much does a Christian get for pilgrimage ?
Till now, nothing. On Dec 12, 2006, a delegation of Christian MPs met Manmohan Singh demanding a subsidy to Bethlehem to be added in the 2007-2008 Union Budget! Here is a snippet from Asian Age.

If the government can give Haj subsidy to Muslims, why cannot Christians get something similar for a pilgrimage to the holy city of Bethlehem? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who returned home on Saturday from Japan was confronted with this demand from a delegation of Christian MPs who wanted the subsidy included in the Union Budget for 2007-2008. Even Hindu pilgrims get a subsidy for travelling to Manasarovar. Hence it was pointed out that it would be discriminating against Christians to deny them a similar benefit. The MP delegation was led by Dr H.T. Sangliana and comprised George Fernandes, Dr P.C. Alexander, P.A. Sangma, P.C. Thomas, Seelam Jesudasu, Kharsiingh Robert, Silvius Condpan, Mabel Rebello, Sushila Kerketta and Shantaram Naik, a Rajya Sabha member from Goa. The Prime Minister was perplexed to find Naik, a Hindu, in the delegation but the latter told him that Goa had a 30% Christian population and he was echoing their sentiments.

Now comes the interesting part.

How much can I get from the government ? You could get quite a lot and it is actually doable. Here are the few easy steps.
  1. Form your own religion.
  2. Select a nice holy place for annual pilgrimage like Las Vegas or Maui.
  3. Demand atleast 50% subsidy from the government for your annual pilgrimage. If the government doesn't agree, threaten to file a discriminatory case at the highest court.
How did we get into this mess ? It probably goes back to the time when modern India was born in 1947. Our leaders were debating what kind of a constitution we should have. It finally boiled down to choosing between an exclusive secular nation (as practised in most Western countries) and all inclusive secular nation. India, unfortunately in my opinion, chose the latter. Check out Shashi Tharoor's Nehru for a detailed story surrounding this. It became obligatory for government to recognize and support and subsidize each and every recognized religious institutions. In my opinion, exclusive secularism as practised by countries in EU, USA is much better. The state does not and need not support any religion and is completely separate from the church. Personally, I don't want my tax money to feed some other random unknown persons spiritual cravings. An all inclusive secularism, in which state tries to support all different kinds of churches, cannot work without being discriminatory one way or the other. For example, newer religions or newer gods find it hard to get acceptance from the state.

Please feel free to add/correct figures to this article in your comments quoting your source as well.

Update1: The Union Budget for 2007-2008 has set aside Rs. 374 crores subsidy for Haj Charters. You can obtain the pdf file from the union budget website by clicking here.

Update2: I wonder what the constitutionality of all these state subsidies for religious promotion is given that article 27 of Indian Constitution reads:
27. Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion.-

No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.

American held responsible for food wastage.

The Puri temple board, after hours of debating, decided to throw away food cooked for 7000 devotes after a white American "descecrated" the premises by entering the temple. In a country where around 20% of the population hover around the poverty line, this is an awful lot of wastage coming from a temple. I wonder why the temple board couldn't have asked some random priest to just shower the "defiled " food with some slokas and cleansed it instead of burying the whole thing. That surely should have pleased the gods.