This is yet another example of former adversaries- the Nepali Army and the Maoists- coming together to cover their dirty secrets (conflict-era crimes).
By Siromani Dhungana
Habituated to the filthy political drama, the government imposed a ban on Nepali movie Badhshala (Slaughter House) in a clear sign that the government is going to be a butcher for the Freedom of Expression (FoE). In a letter (see pic above, and below by Ministry of Information and Communication to Nepal Film Development Board) sent to Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC), Ministry of Defense has asked to impose ban on the movie citing on the vague reason: ‘…some issues including use of Army regalia in the movie’. Republica, in an editorial, writes:
In a deplorable move, the Ministry of Defense, [currently led by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai], has requested a ban on Nepali movie Badhshala, citing a rarely invoked rule. Apparently, the filmmaker should have taken permission to use Army regalia in the movie. But many Nepali movies have previously depicted characters in Army uniforms without any interference from the government. Hence the Defense Ministry’s reasoning falls flat at the outset. All previous movie bans were conducted by censor board (for example, the movie ATM that was banned for vulgarity). This is the first time that the Defense Ministry has gotten involved in preventing a movie’s screening.
American judge Potter Stewart says: “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”
So, the question is has our government lost its confidence? And whether it is heading towards an authoritarian regime? Many say that is exactly what is happing.
This is yet another example of former adversaries- the Nepali Army and the Maoists- coming together to cover their dirty secrets. They both tortured and killed people during conflict often inhumanly. Now, when efforts are being made to hold those perpetrators accountable, both sides have joined forces to oppose any efforts to address impunity. The movie in question reportedly portrays Maoists insurgents jailed in an Army barrack. So the movie, it has been said, tries to shed light on tortures inflicted upon the detainees by the soldiers. But the Maoists, who are now ruling the country, have no courage to take a stand and let this movie be screened because if they did, they know, there will be others who will go after many of their heinous crimes like the gruesome murder (burying alive) of journalist Dekendra Thapa in Dailekh district.
Many of us have not forgotten that Maoist party has various ways to gag people. In decade-long armed conflict, Maoists threatened gullible villagers to garner support into their ideology. Contradictory to what they did in the village, they tried to appease ‘urban inteligencia’ by showing their (false) democratic character. But their real motto was to kill those who were potential threat to their ideology in the village and they did it without showing any humanity.
The attitude and previous behavior of Maoist is clear enough that it is a party which is ready to do everything for the sake of power.
Though Badhshala has not been screened yet, its anti-government stance on issues like war and torture is widely believed to be the reason for the government’s attempt to ban it. On the other hand, Maoist-Madhesi alliance’s motives of diverting attention of film sector into the ban from recently taken decision of appointment at Film Development Board cannot be ignored.
If we want to lay the foundation for an intellectually vibrant society, it is important to do away with such restrictions on artistic freedom. History has shown us that social progress is possible only when there is no restriction on information. Ban on Freedom of Expression (FoE) and critical views is apparent sign that our government is egoist and want to be autocrat.
John Milton (1608-1674) said: “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” He said it in the 17th century. But we are compelled to say it in 21st due to our bad directors who don’t know the language of good film but experts of bad.
UWB: An earlier version of this article missed to cite Republica. We regret the error.