Mass resignations at Censor Board as Gurmeet Singh holds show of strength for MSG

FP Staff

Jan 17, 2015 13:44:19 IST

Resignations continued at the Censor Board after nine members quit on Saturday citing interference and corruption in the Information and Broadcasting ministry, reports IBN-Live.

In their letter to the I&B Minister, CBFC members said, "The events that led to the Chairperson Ms Leela Samson resigning from her position are merely the proverbial last straw. We have been asking for some critical changes, which are imperative to the functioning of the CBFC. Not a single positive step has been taken by the Ministry."

The members who have resigned are Ira Bhaskar, Lora Prabhu, Pankaj Sharma, Rajeev Masand, TG Thyagarajan, Mamang Dai, Shubhra Gupta.

Ira Bhaskar told CNN-IBN, "I have decided to resign so have other members and have written a joint letter saying the board hasn't been functioning properly. The Chairperson is not there, so the board constituted with her has no meaning." Bhaskar however stated that her resignation should not be linked to the controversial Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's film 'MSG - Messenger of God.

She also told Times of India, “What's happening now is a culmination of a long process. There was no money for meetings. The Board didn't meet since early 2014. We wanted to bring about positive changes. To that end we had also written to the UPA-government in the summer of 2013. As members, we are supposed to put across our views in meetings. Otherwise what's the point in being a member?.”

The resignations came a day after Censor Board chief Leela Samson quit alleging interference from the government, after the film Messenger of God, which stars Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was given clearance despite an intial rejection.

MSG was reportedly first rejected by the examining committee of the censor board as well as the revising committee. After that it was was referred to Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), which cleared it for release.

Samson had said in a statement on the clearance, “"It is a mockery of Central Board of Film Certification. My resignation is final. Have informed the (I&B) Secretary."

 Mass resignations at Censor Board as Gurmeet Singh holds show of strength for MSG

A screenshot from the film's trailer.

She also told CNN-IBN, "Problems started during UPA regime itself. Panel workers are chosen as they are party workers. My reason to resign is that there has to be a new board. Government has shown lack of respect to autonomous body."

She also spoke of the challenges of "having to manage an organization whose Board has not met for over nine months as the ministry had no funds to permit the meeting of members."

She said the term of all the members and the Chairperson of the Censor Board "are over. But since the new government failed to appoint a new Board and Chairperson, a few were given extension and asked to carry on till the procedure was completed."

"However, recent cases of interference in the working of the CBFC by the ministry, through an 'additional charge' CEO, and corrupt panel members has caused a degradation of those values that the members of this Board of CBFC and Chairperson stood for," Samson said.

Meanwhile other board members who resigned have also come out in Samson’s support.

Nandini Sardesai, who headed the review panel of MSG, told TOI, "As head of the review committee that declined to certify MSG I feel that the credibility of our panel has been undermined by the tribunal's decision to clear it.” She said the film promotes superstition and thus violates the Cinematograph Act.

Film critic Rajeev Masand also expressed how “concerns raised on issues of corruption and interference had fallen on ‘deaf ears,’ notes the report.

Meanwhile the government has hit back at Samson and asked her to furnish evidence to prove her claim. Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said the government has always maintained a distance from the entire process of film certification and Samson should furnish evidence of such ‘coercion.’

"Whatever the decision, it has to be acceptable to all," he said, in an obvious reference to the FCAT's green signal to "MSG". "There was no coercion by the government. If she feels so, let her convey it to the government."

Meanwhile MSG seems to have got quite a response in Gurgaon as thousands of followers of the Baba turned up for the screening. According to a Times of India report, the premiere of the film had to be cancelled as Gurgaon administration said no permission had been taken for the screening.

The report adds that “2.40 lakh tickets were sold for the MSG premiere. Each ticket cost Rs 2,000. Fifteen screens along with acoustic systems were installed at Leisure Valley Park to ensure everyone could watch it properly.”

The Dera chief also held a mega show of strength around the movie as hundreds upon hundreds of vehicles from out of Gurgaon, including buses, SUVs, jeeps brought thousands of supporters to Gurgaon, notes Firstpost’s Ivor Soans, who was at the location.

He says that, most of the number plates were from Haryana and Punjab and that the followers (including kids) were wearing glossy MSG tee shirts‎.

The grounds where the mega show are covered all over with giant MSG hoardings, all with a January 18 release date and even tethered hot air balloons with MSG branding. Dera security volunteers and Haryana Police were all over the place.

The Dera chief, who arrived on a Harley at the venue, insisted that he was not being projected as God in the movie and repeatedly said that he was only human.

"There's a move to stop the release of the film. I have no knowledge on why the censor board objected to the film," he said, adding that the film carries a message against social evils like alcoholism, prostitution and drugs and promoted good causes like blood donation and doing voluntary work.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim, who is said to have around 50 million followers, has been mired in a controversy since 2001, facing murder and rape cases in courts.

Updated Date: Jan 17, 2015 13:45:32 IST