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After Leela Samson, censor board member Ira Bhaskar likely to quit

Leela Samson alleged that recent cases of interference in the working of CBFC by the ministry, through an ‘additional charge’ CEO, and corrupt panel members have caused a degradation of the values of the board and the position of the chairperson. Photo: HTPremium
Leela Samson alleged that recent cases of interference in the working of CBFC by the ministry, through an ‘additional charge’ CEO, and corrupt panel members have caused a degradation of the values of the board and the position of the chairperson. Photo: HT

The govt, which runs the censorship and appeals process, did not interfere, said Rajyavardhan Rathore, minister of state for information and broadcasting

New Delhi: After censor board chief Leela Samson, another board member Ira Bhaskar has decided to resign over the state of affairs in the running of the statutory body.

Bhaskar, a professor of cinema studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, said she will send in her resignation by Friday night.

“I have decided to resign by tonight. My resignation has to do with Leelaji’s decision to step down. We were working together and as a group we had discussed about resigning earlier but we held on as she attempted to help the ministry in running the board."

“But things were clearly not in order. There was no meeting in the past one year though it was mandatory for board members to meet every three months. The last meeting was in January 2014. The censor board CEO said there were no funds to hold the meetings so the board is clearly not required," Bhaskar told PTI.

The decision to release the “entirely unsuitable" film had made a mockery of the censor board, said another panel member, Nandini Sardesai.

Samson, who headed the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), a statutory body under the information and broadcasting ministry, since 2011, resigned amid controversy surrounding the overnight clearance of controversial film “Messenger of God" featuring Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

The censor board had referred the issue of clearance to “Messenger of God" to Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). The film, which was slated to hit the screens on Friday, is now releasing on Sunday.

Asked why she decided to quit, Samson did not specifically refer to the reported clearance to the film but cited alleged “interference, coercion and corruption of panel members and officers of the organisation who are appointed by the ministry" as reasons.

However, the government, which runs the censorship and appeals process, did not interfere, said Rajyavardhan Rathore, minister of state for information and broadcasting.

The debate went viral on social media, with hashtags #MSGinCinemas and #WeLoveMSG trending on Twitter.

“All hail freedom of expression. MSG ... is India’s Charlie Hebdo," said Twitter user “Finger of India", referring to the French satirical newspaper attacked by Islamist gunmen this month.

Even apart from the celluloid derring-do, Singh is a controversial figure.

In December, a court asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate claims that Singh forced 400 followers to undergo castrations at his ashram in Haryana, in order to experience God.

Singh has denied the allegations, but the CBI has filed a case.

Several groups representing the Sikh minority that makes up 2% of India’s population of 1.2 billion have demanded a ban on the film, in which they say Singh distorted their scriptures and dressed up as a 17th-century Sikh guru.

“We are not against freedom of expression, but the organisation against Sikhism," said S. Simranjit Singh Mann, the chief of one such group.

Insaan, the spokesman for the film’s distributor, has denied these contentions.

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