The Kolkata police have registered a first information report (FIR) against Mumbai-based filmmaker Sanoj Mishra for allegedly trying to hurt religious sentiments and fan communal tension through his upcoming movie, ‘The Diary of West Bengal’, officials said.
Police have also served a legal notice to Mishra, asking him to appear at the city’s Amherst Street police station on May 30 for questioning in the case. The legal notice was sent through Mumbai’s Oshiwara police, the officials added.
The filmmaker dismissed the allegations as “baseless” and said the police case against him was an “attempt to silence the truth”.
According to joint commissioner (crime) Shankha Shubhra Chakrabarty, the case was registered on May 11 on the basis of a complaint by a citizen whose identity was not disclosed by police. The notice to the filmmaker was issued on Wednesday.
“The complainant found the content objectionable. We will carry out an investigation. The director has been asked to appear on May 30 with all materials related to the content of the trailer,” Chakrabarty told HT.
The development comes weeks after the Bengal government banned the screening of ‘The Kerala Story’, saying the film contains “hate speech” and “manipulated facts” and has the potential to disrupt communal harmony and law and order in the state. The ban was later set aside by the Supreme Court.
Written and directed by Mishra, and produced by Jitendra Narayan Singh, the trailer of the ‘The Diary of West Bengal’ was uploaded on YouTube a month ago and the film is scheduled to hit the screens in August.
The trailer portrays Bengal as a shelter for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh. It also shows some actors speaking of communal riots in the state. One of them is heard saying that the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens will not be allowed to be implemented in the state.
Police said the FIR was registered under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (vilification or attack on a religion), 501 (printing or engraving defamatory content), 504 (intentional insult to break public peace), 505 (circulating material to cause communal tension) and 295A (deliberate or malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code.
Police have also booked the filmmaker under various provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Cinematograph Act, 1952.
Speaking to news agency ANI in Mumbai, Mishra said his film is based on research and evidence on real incidents. “The social structure of Bengal has changed because of a demographic change. This has happened only because of the politics of appeasement. The IPC sections against me are applicable to criminals and am not one of them. I have full faith in the legal system but I fear that I will be arrested by the Bengal police. I may die in their jail,” he said.
“I appeal to the Prime Minister and Union home minister to look into these attempts of silencing the truth. The charges are baseless. I have no intention of maligning any state. I have worked in Bengal in the past,” he added.
The police notice to Mishra triggered a political row in the state.
“Only the BJP has fought against this illegal infiltration since the 1980s. A silent demographic invasion has led to an increase of around 11% voters in Bengal’s border districts. The people of India have the right to know the truth because it is connected to Bengal’s future. Mamata Banerjee’s vindictive government cannot honour the expression of truth,” state BJP chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said.
Hitting back, TMC Rajya Sabha member Santanu Sen said: “A global survey recently showed India holding the 162nd position among 180 countries in terms of people’s right to freedom of expression. The BJP should not speak on this subject because it has set a record in throttling the voice of the Opposition. The state government has every right to act in a situation where communal harmony faces threat.”
Bengali film director Subrata Sen said not everything can be portrayed in public in the name of freedom of expression. “Any freedom comes with certain responsibilities. Freedom of expression does not mean one can do something that is instigating and goes against the rule of law. Also, freedom of expression cannot lead to law and order problems,” he said.