India is a diverse country of many religions, languages and opinions. Therefore it is no surprise that there exists an unspoken censor on all things that are portrayed in public. This primary censor is majorly done by society and authorities to prevent any harm to public sentiment. In addition to this, there also exists an actual censorship board that monitors and regulates the content of the entertainment media sector in India. The Censorship Board of Film Certification is the authority in India with regards to censoring of movies and television series. The Board has various certifications which the films are categorized into based on the content which is censored by them.
What is Censoring?
Censoring is the process of removing or altering those things that are or might be harmful, immoral or politically dangerous to society and even the country. It is more widely done in the area of movies, series, news and printed media. According to the Information Technology Rules 2011, the content that is objectionable and might need to be censored includes anything that “threatens the unity, integrity, defense, security, or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states or public order”. Censoring is done for newspapers, news channels, movies, television, music, drama, books, internet and even maps. Newspapers are often threatened and banned when they print something that goes against the political ideologies and impression of that time. They do not have a lot of freedom to report news exactly as happened. Similarly, even news channels have to be careful not to offend or upset religious groups and political parties. Movies and television are regularly monitored and the directors are asked to remove or cut scenes where there is a depiction of obscenity, vulgarity or politically subversive subjects. When the directors oblige and remove those parts from the movies, only then the Censorship Board certifies the movie, after it which it is allowed to be shown in theaters all over the country. If the director of the film refuses to make the said cuts then the Board often refuses to certify the film and bans it from being shown in the movie theaters. Even dramas, music and books that touch the subjects of religious tension are banned in certain states or sometimes the whole country. The number of people taking offense over anything and everything has forced the directors to create disclaimers to be shown before any movie or series that state that the contents of the media do not intend to hurt the sentiments of anyone, and that any resemblance to anyone is purely fictional. The standardized maps of India should show all of Kashmir as a part of the Indian territory. The issues of map publications that went against this rule were burned and banned from being published.
What are arguments against Censorship?
There are people against censoring who argue that such extensive censoring abrogates the freedom of speech and expression that the Constitution of India guarantees every citizen of the country. Every individual has different opinions and what one might consider appropriate might be considered offensive by another. By censoring all printed, visual and audio media, the Censorship Board is actively indulging in suppression of public speech and opinion. A country that is the largest democracy in the world is very diligently engaged in cutting, banning and disallowing creative media only because it might be potentially hurtful to certain groups of people. It is also seen that sometimes there are riots and acts of extreme violence due to groups being offended by movies, and later it is found that there has just been a misunderstanding which caused all the action followed. Such blind and unnecessary actions force the Censorship Board to censor even more rigidly, so that they can try to maintain communal harmony in the country. However, this is unfair to the creators and disrespectful to the ones who have worked on it. It also takes away the freedom of the audience to whom the movie caters to the most.
The need to censor media comes from an absolute standpoint of maintaining and safeguarding national peace and harmony. Any medium of public speech needs to be accountable to an authority so that there is an inherent respect of all components of the nation while producing content. However, in this process, it is imperative that there is no rampant destruction of freedom of speech and expression. Censorship should be a means to an end, and not the end itself.