Stop, snip

The number of interest groups with fragile sentiments has just grown by two — Stalinists and the now-obscure activists of Singur. These groups are numerically so small that they may even qualify for state protection, like the Royal Bengal tiger and the white-rumped vulture, Gyps bengalensis. Yet on the advice of a state body in West Bengal, the Censor Board has refused to allow the screening of a Bengali film, Kangal Malsat, by theatre and film director Suman Mukhopadhyay, ostensibly because it fears that making fun of Stalinists and the Singur movement, which propelled Mamata Banerjee to power, could spark off uncivil unrest. Besides, the bad language that features in the movie is apparently just so bad that it must be sacrificed on the altar of tautology.

There is the predictable uproar about curbs on free speech and lamentation about the shrinking of creative space, but this issue doesn't seem to be about art. It may be just underhand politics using state machinery to settle scores. Mukhopadhyay is one of many creative people who backed Banerjee's bid for office. Kabir Suman, a singer who also features in the film, is a TMC MP. People like them helped to develop the rhetoric of poriborton. When it turned out to be more of the same, Banerjee's artistic supporters revolted. Suman has tested Didi's patience considerably, singing like a canary with a microphone about the perceived misdeeds of the TMC.

In a state that treasures culture quite immoderately, artistic endorsements are valuable for politicians. Banerjee may not have ordered a crackdown on artists who have turned, but people close to her are clearly misusing their power to lay down the party line.

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