Bengal in India bans The Kerala Story from the state

What do I think?

M Ahmedullah, 8 May 2023

Picture taken from:

In principle, I oppose banning most things as I believe when there are strong institutions and civil society, then any dangerous fall outs from free speech can be handled effectively.

However, people in charge who have to maintain law and order and promote good relations and community cohesion have to judge the situation of the day and decide how to handle controversial issues, such as generated by certain films, books, etc. If the situation requires, films like The Kerala Story can be banned on the ground of preserving communal harmony and community safety even though people woukd still be abke to see it eventually online or through private viewing arrangements.

But any ban should be the last resort, as most bans will end up being counterproductive. Instead, the best approach for Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of Bengal, would have been to focus on institutional strengths to maintain law and order and allow rivals to challenge each other without violence. This would allow the softening of position on all sides after getting exhausted by the inability to force one’s ideas on others.

Although I cannot see any reason for banning the film The Kerala Story in Bengal, in the context of recent communal violence in the state, I can understand the chief minister panicking and instituting the ban. However, it would have been better to allow the film to be shown in Bengal cinema halls and theatre venues and allow and encourage more widespread debates on the film and the topic covered.

It is ironic that the most intellectual state in India, where critical thinking and scholarships are abundant, decided to ban the film. Rather than instituting the ban, Mamata Banerjee should have unleashed the intellectual energy of Bengal to take on the film that she considers designed to cause communal disruption. I think it was a mistake to ban the film in Bengal.