Sunday, June 04, 2006

DVC-India --- continuing coverage

As Andhra Pradesh becomes the eleventh state in the Union to ban the Da Vinci Code (the state with the largest Christian population, Kerala, allows it to be screened however), it seems that not a day passes without a DVC related story in the (English) press here. A thoughtful editorial in yesterday's Indian Express makes an important point.
Banning a creative work — a work of fiction at that — is an extreme step. A ban is meant to be an instrument of absolutely the last resort. And even if it is used by an administration, it amounts to an admission that the authorities have failed in their responsibility to maintain public order.
On Friday, a story about the Church "unleasing" a website to counter DVC (just how does one "unleash" a website exactly?). Basically, the Express discovered that the CBCI site has a prominent link to the US Bishops' own Jesus Decoded site. A story in the print edition of today's Sunday Express ("Film Guild asks States to review ban on 'Vinci Code', which I cannot locate online) mentions that the government of Mizoram (a northeastern state with a Christian majority) has advised citizens not to import the book and cable operators not to telecast the movie, terming it blasphemous. However, church leaders did not directly ask the government to ban the movie. The same story also has this to say about Goa, a state with a near Catholic majority.
In Goa, where a multiplex has started to show the film, Congress MP Churchill Alemao threatened to "forcibly" stop screenings from tomorrow. ... Alemao told PTI in Panaji, "The Inox multiplex management has been given a deadline till this evening to stop screening the movie. If they continue screening it, we will forcibly stop the shows from tomorrow morning." Alemao said, "There cannot be a fiction on God. God is ultimate and all those believing in Jesus Christ will join me in my agitation."
I am sorry, honorable Member of Parliament, this beleiver in Jesus Christ will not be joining you in your pathetic attempts to politicize the issue, disturb the peace and thereby help you win votes to retain your darned gaddi. Besides, I think that a "forcible" and violent agitation is not just stupid, but anti-Christian as well. And just what does it mean to say there "cannot be a fiction on God?"

Why does a state, even a state with a Christian majority, in a secular, democractic country, have to advise its citizens not to read something? Are we that infantile? That stupid?

The more I read, the more I am firmly on the side that says that banning the DVC is wrong. (In the West, I'm extremely suspicious of the hyper secularism that would strip religion completely from the public squre. In India I'm unabashedly secularist. Some separation between religion and politics is vital for the flourishing of democracy here.) People need to stop giving the film so much attention. Get over it.

Of course, I suspect, the real reason for all these agitations is not offense or blasphemy or wanting to defend Our Lord and Savior. Any excuse to pander to minorities, to appear to be sympathetic to one religious (or caste) group, and thereby secure votes, will be jumped on by India's politicians.

And whose fault is that? We get the government we deserve, as they say.

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