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Beef documentary to be screened independently, first show at JNU

Of the 35 entries sent to the Ministry, Caste on the Menu Card was the only film which was not exempted from certification.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul | Mumbai |
Updated: December 25, 2015 10:21:31 pm

A day after the government denied permission to screen a documentary on beef at the 12th Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival 2015 in New Delhi, the makers of the documentary have said they would hold independent screenings of Caste on the Menu Card on college campuses and at civil society organisations.

A statement issued by the five filmmakers on Friday stated they are “deeply saddened” by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s move to deny exemption for screening the film at the festival. “We are planning to get the film screened on college campuses and civil society organisations across the country to encourage a dialogue. Moreover, we will be releasing the film online in the days ahead,” read an excerpt from the statement. Caste on the Menu Card was scheduled to be screened on October 31, but the I&B Ministry refused to exempt it from certification, said Centre for Civil Society (CCS), which is organising the film festival. On Friday, CCS pushed for another round of negotiation, but the efforts yielded no response.

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Of the 35 entries sent to the Ministry, Caste on the Menu Card was the only film which was not exempted from certification.

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The documentary was made in 2014 by five students of School of Media and Cultural Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences as part of their course. Training the lens on food practices in Mumbai, the film aims to portray the prevalence of caste and touches upon concerns related to livelihood, social inclusion and human rights.

Atul Anand, one of the five makers of the film, told The Indian Express that they got the idea to make the documentary after a row on the TISS campus. “Three months prior to the filming of this documentary, a group of students, mostly tribals and Dalits, had demanded that beef and pork be made available in the college mess. This sparked a row,” said Anand, who finished his TISS course in April and is currently teaching at a media college in Panjim. The others who worked on the project are Ananyaa Gaur, Vaseem Chaudhary, Anurup Khillare and Reetika Revathy Subramanian.

The film uses the TISS row to talk about the connection between caste, purity and food. It has mostly been shot in Mumbai but makes references to incidents outside across the country.

“Take for instance the lynching of four Dalits in Haryana in 2002 because they were allegedly carrying a cow carcass. Dalits don’t rear cows, upper caste Hindus do. Nobody questions why upper caste Hindus are allowed to sell their old cattle for slaughter, while Dalits suffer if they are found with a cow carcass,” said Anand.

The makers of the film are now looking forward to holding independent screenings. “We have been approached by several institutions and NGOs. The first of these screenings will take place on the JNU campus on November 1,” said Anand.

dipti.nagpaul@expressindia.com

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