On 27 April 2018, theatre owners across West Bengal state refused to screen film Danga: The Riot (also known as 1946 Calcutta Killings), claiming they were pressured by local authorities who found it to be “sensitive” at a time when state elections were being held, reported The Indian Express.
Film director Milan Bhowmik said that despite receiving certification from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), the 103 cinema halls scheduled to screen the film refused to do so because of intimidation by Bengal officials.
“In Bengal, the hall owners were threatened, posters and banners were taken down to prevent the release of the movie”, Bhowmik told News18.
Bhowmik decided to petition the High Court of Calcutta to order the release of the film. The director’s lawyer highlighted that per Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, “no one is entitled to impose unreasonable restriction upon a school of thought of any person”, including film producers and directors.
The court ruled in favour of the director, reported The Times of India on 24 May 2018.
The film is a tribute to Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of Jan Sangh, the precursor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s largest political party currently. The film explores the role of Mookerjee during the great Calcutta killings of 1946 when Muslims and Hindus rioted across the city leaving thousands dead and homeless.
According to Freemuse’s The State of Artistic Freedom Report 2018, India accounted for one-third of all documented cases of persecutions and threats against filmmakers, actors and actresses in 2017. Eighty-six per cent of those documented cases were related to censorship against films. Additionally, 91% of all documented violations were carried out by government authorities.