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How State-Censorship Leads To Self-Censorship

Ijaz ul Hassan’s “Rifle Butt”, 1974
Ijaz ul Hassan’s “Rifle Butt”, 1974

On a day when people wonder why it is so important to fight the ban on an "irrelevant" book on Jinnah, it was very fitting to come across this piece by Quddus Mirza in Himal Southasian that illustrates how the system of censorship seeps into the very souls of those it affects. It begins with a short story by Luisa Valenzuela, the Argentine author:

A young man writes a love letter to his fiancé, and adds a line or two about the government of his country. He posts the letter, but soon after dispatching he realises that if it is opened in the censor office, he is going to suffer because of the casual negative remark he made. In order to avoid such consequences, he decides to apply for a job in the censor department, so he can try to get hold of his letter. To his surprise, he does indeed get a position, and thus starts learning his new tasks. Several months later, during the course of normal post-checking, he finally comes across his letter. He opens it and reads the content. But instead of hiding it or throwing it away, he writes a note that the sender of the letter has committed a crime against the state and must be punished.

More here

In fact, this entire issue of Himal, with a cover story on censorship is eminently readable and relevant. Apart from the main piece by Lawrence Liang [he does more than paraphrase Ashis Nandi by saying that "the banned films reveal to us the secret politics of the law’s desires"], what I found particularly fascinating is Sunita Akoijam's Chopsticks in Manipur which describes how the move to ban Hindi films and serials in Manipur has had an unexpected consequence: the Koreans have moved in.

Ijaz ul Hassan’s “Rifle Butt”, 1974
Ijaz ul Hassan’s “Rifle Butt”, 1974

On a day when people wonder why it is so important to fight the ban on an "irrelevant" book on Jinnah, it was very fitting to come across this piece by Quddus Mirza in Himal Southasian that illustrates how the system of censorship seeps into the very souls of those it affects. It begins with a short story by Luisa Valenzuela, the Argentine author:

A young man writes a love letter to his fiancé, and adds a line or two about the government of his country. He posts the letter, but soon after dispatching he realises that if it is opened in the censor office, he is going to suffer because of the casual negative remark he made. In order to avoid such consequences, he decides to apply for a job in the censor department, so he can try to get hold of his letter. To his surprise, he does indeed get a position, and thus starts learning his new tasks. Several months later, during the course of normal post-checking, he finally comes across his letter. He opens it and reads the content. But instead of hiding it or throwing it away, he writes a note that the sender of the letter has committed a crime against the state and must be punished.

More here

In fact, this entire issue of Himal, with a cover story on censorship is eminently readable and relevant. Apart from the main piece by Lawrence Liang [he does more than paraphrase Ashis Nandi by saying that "the banned films reveal to us the secret politics of the law’s desires"], what I found particularly fascinating is Sunita Akoijam's Chopsticks in Manipur which describes how the move to ban Hindi films and serials in Manipur has had an unexpected consequence: the Koreans have moved in.

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