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India: Uphold Freedom of Expression. Condemn Fabricated cases against Film and Media persons in Kerala

11 June 2013

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ViBGYOR Film Collective condemns the fabricated charges leveled against five reputed Cultural, film and media persons of Kerala. Kerala police has charged cases against K.P Sasi, the renowned Film maker and activist, I Shanmukhadas, a well known Film Critic, Prasannakumar T N, a film activist, Shafeek, a young Journalist and Deepak, a Filmmaker and Film Society activist for ’rioting";, ’unlawful assembly’ and ’public obstruction" ; (IPC Sections 143, 147, 149 and 283) for participating in a peaceful protest which occurred on February 11, 2013 at Thrissur, Kerala. These citizens along with a few dozens of writers, Film makers
and activists were protesting against the very concept of capital punishment and the surreptitious manner in which Afzal Guru was accorded Death Penalty.

The Crimes that the Kerala police are ascribing to these distinguished personalities of Kerala are totally false and trumped-up.

The entire protest had happened during ViBGYOR Film Festival, 2013. The peaceful protest with speeches and recitals of renowned cultural personalities is organized near the entrance gate of the festival venue and lasted not more than an hour. It did in no way amounted to an unlawful assembly, public obstruction or did cause a communal riot that day or later. ViBGYOR Film collective shares the firm opinion that death penalty is a fundamental violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. We assert the right of citizens to dissent and express their opposition towards capital punishment in a peaceful manner.

ViBGYOR Film Collective and ViBGYOR Film Festival, during its eight years of existence and functioning, have always stood for the Rights that are enshrined in the Constitution of India, and have always come out openly to defend it. We, as the citizens of this democratic nation, believe that such attempt to silence democratic protests and stifle freedom of expression in any manner is a violation of our basic rights enshrined in our constitution and we demand that the false charges against these five Cultural film and media personalities of contemporary Kerala should be withdrawn immediately.

We also urge our friends and democratic forums and organizations to voice their protest in unequivocal terms against such undemocratic ways of fabricating false cases against the citizens who have all rights to exercise lawful means of protests in public space.
In solidarity,
ViBGYOR Film Collective [1]

We the undersigned strongly condemn the blatant attempt by the Kerala police to intimidate five colleagues from the field of film and media by filing fabricated cases against them for ’rioting";, ’unlawful assembly’ and ’public obstruction; (IPC Sections 143, 147, 149 and 283 ). These five individuals- K.P.Sasi, noted filmmaker and activist, I. Shanmukhadas, film critic, Prasannakumar T.N., film activist, Shafeek, journalist and Deepak, filmmaker and film society activist- were participating in a peaceful protest on February 11 at Thrissur, Kerala, along with many others, outside the venue of the Vibgyor Film Festival 2013 against the concept of capital punishment and the summary execution of Afzal Guru. The peaceful protest which lasted for an hour, in no way disturbed public order or caused communal unrest. For this act of democratic expression, these fraudulent and trumped charges have been filed against them.

It is indeed shocking that the Kerala police should deny citizens their basic right to peacefully protest against the death penalty, which 97 nations across the world have abolished. As per Amnesty International data, over 2/3 of the countries of the world (140) are now “abolitionist in law or practice”. In India, there has been an alarming resurgence of the death penalty, which needs to be questioned and protested against by all those who stand for social justice and human rights. This crude act of intimidation by the state needs to be condemned by all and we urge the Kerala police to withdraw these false and malicious charges immediately.

  • Anand Patwardhan, Filmmaker, Mumbai
  • Anjali Monteiro, TISS, Mumbai
  • K.P. Jayasankar, TISS, Mumbai
  • Nivedita Menon, JNU, New Delhi
  • Rahul Roy, Filmmaker, New Delhi
  • Saba Dewan, Filmmaker, New Delhi
  • Shilpa Phadke, TISS, Mumbai
  • Shoba V. Ghosh, University of Mumbai
  • Shohini Ghosh, Jamia Millia, New Delhi
  • Ajay Bhardwaj, Filmmaker, New Delhi
  • Bishaldeb Halder, TISS, Mumbai
  • Anivar Aravind , IT Engineer, Bangalore
  • Amar Kanwar, Filmmaker, New Delhi
  • Charu Gargi, Filmmaker, Estonia
  • Lynne Henry, Filmmaker, Mumbai
  • Rakesh Sharma, Filmmaker, Mumbai-Goa
  • Suma Josson, Filmmaker, Mumbai
  • Vivek Monteiro, Trade unionist, Mumbai