India’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry has denied permission to screen a short film about the “beef eating practices” in Mumbai.
The 21-minute film, titled ‘Caste on the Menu Card’ was chosen to be screened at the 12th Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival in 2015 but was pulled after the ministry directive.
It was the only one of 35 films to be denied permission.
‘Caste on the Menu Card’ is a project by students at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai (TISS). According to the film’s creators, the film delves into the idea of food as a means of “exclusion” by focusing on beef-eating practices in Mumbai and how caste differences in the city are portrayed by people’s food choices.
One of the filmmaker’s, Reetika Revathy Subramaniam, told India Today: “The film was a part of the larger course work called Castemopolitan Mumbai Series, which broadly explores livelihood, gender, the intricate link between food and caste and questions why most of these issues are swept under the carpet”.
A spokesman for the Ministry said it had denied permission to the film because of “inadequate documentation”.
However, Festival director Manoj Mathew said that he had been told by the Ministry that the film had been exempted because of the “current political situation over the beef ban issue”.
On Friday, the filmmakers issued this statement:
“On Oct 29, a day before the festival,we were informed by the festival organizer Manoj Matthew that our documentary film cannot be screened because the Joint Secretary of the Film Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has denied the permission for the same. Mr Mathhew further says that the Ministry had denied the permission when they found the mention of ‘beef’ in the synopsis of the film. Out of 19 films which are scheduled for the screening in the festival, only our film has been denied the permission. Mr Matthew tried to reason with the officials saying that the film is not of a ‘religious’ nature. The documentary film had its first public screening in Mumbai on January 5, 2015 during the Cut.In Student Film Festival at TISS. It had subsequent public screenings at University of Hyderabad in March 2015, last week at Society for Rural Urban and Tribal Initiative (SRUTI) and last Sunday at Rolling Frames Film Summit 2015, Bangalore. We are shocked and deeply upset about the turn of events. We are planning to get the film screened on college campuses and civil society organizations across the country to encourage a dialogue. Moreover, we will be releasing the film online in the days ahead.”
Two Indian states – Maharashtra and Haryana – this year banned the slaughter of beef cattle, which remains the main source of protein for many of India’s Muslim and Christian communities as well as many low-caste Hindus.
Cows are considered sacred in Hindu majority India and the recent beef bans and targeting of those who eat beef are widely seen as the result of the rise in hardline Hindu nationalist sentiment in the country.
Watch the film’s trailer here: