DOORDARSHAN FINALLY TO SHOW “IN MEMORY OF FRIENDS”
At 7.30 PM on Wednesday the 18th of September, 1996, Doordarshan will obey a court ruling and screen Anand Patwardhan’s award winning documentary film IN MEMORY OF FRIENDS on its Metro Channel, DD – 2.
On July 19th following the final hearing of a four year old petition, Justice A. P. Shah of the Bombay High Court had ordered Doordarshan to telecast “In Memory of Friends” at prime time on either DD 1 or DD 2 of the national network within a two month period.
Completed in 1990, the film describes the efforts of a group of Sikhs and Hindus who at great risk to their own lives, travel through the strife-torn villages and towns of Punjab, spreading the secular message of the legendary freedom fighter, Bhagat Singh.
Doordarshan had refused to telecast the film despite the fact that a jury appointed by the Govt. of India had given the film a National Award for the Best Investigative Documentary of 1990 for its “honesty, courage and lucidity”. The film had also won a Silver Conch at the first Bombay International Film Festival in 1990.
Doordarshan’s affidavit objected to quotations from Bhagat Singh’s book entitled “Why I am an Atheist” saying that these may offend people who are religious. It further objected to the idea that “class consciousness was an antidote to communal conflict” and to the description of the “massacre of innocent Sikhs” and claimed that the film provided “a forum for those elements who stand for Khalistan” . But the crux of the matter became clear when the affidavit objected that the film “brought in material which is not very relevant to the programme” such as the “exploitation of Bhindrenwale by Congress Party”.
Justice Shah who saw the film at a specially organized screening , held that the denial of telecast by Doordarshan amounted to a violation of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution guaranteeing freedom of expression. He held that the petitioners right to impart information as well as the right of citizens of India to receive information were being denied. Justice Shah dismissed Doordarshan’s objections and described the film as an important and courageous documentary which attempts to promote communal harmony by spreading light on Bhagat Singh’s humanist vision. He observed that neither Bhagat Singh nor the film had made derogatory remarks about any particular religion, and class consciousness itself could not be banned in a democratic society. To Doordarshan’s fears that the film would incite violence as it had interviewed supporters of Khalistan, the judge held that the film must be seen in its entirety and at no point did the film glorify or justify violence.
A BACKGROUND TO ANAND PATWARDHAN’S FILMS ON DOORDARSHAN
Since 1978 Anand Patwardhan has made seven documentary films. To date these films have won 5 National Awards, 3 Filmfare Awards and 13 international awards. Educational institutions across the country as well as groups involved in human rights, women’s rights, workers rights, environmental rights and civil liberties have used these films in the course of their work.
Yet Doordarshan has shown only one film “Bombay Our City” so far and that too after they were ordered to do so in 1989 after a long court battle.
A petitition to get Doordarshan to screen another of Patwardhan’s films “Ram Ke Naam” dealing with the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid conflict is pending before the courts. This film which highlights ordinary Indians opposed to communal conflict, won the Filmfare Award for Best Documentary and a National Award in 1992, and several international awards but Doordarshan to date has refused to show it.