Several academics and scholars who have have been observing the narrowing ambit of freedom of expression on social media platforms have been quick in noting that high degrees of surveillance, monitoring and censorship have curbed down the scope of creative expression. And this seems to hold specially true when the content involves any kind of mutual exchange between the Hindu and the Muslim communities or the relations between the two communities. We saw this unfold quite clearly in the recent controversy that unfolded regarding the Tanishq advertisement where a Muslim mother-in-law was shown organising a ceremony in the traditional Hindu style for her pregnant daughter-in-law. Owing to high degrees of trolling and hate, the company had to finally pull down the advertisement. Now there is a fresh new controversy regarding the popular and much talked about ‘A Suitable Boy’ on Netflix.
Many people who have raised objections regarding its contents have urged others to boycott the OTT platform. Netflix has been doing quite well in India and views the country as one of its fastest growing markets.
Meera Nair’s A Suitable Boy is now in trouble and the issues involved are deeply sensitive and driven by communal sentiments.
‘ A Suitable Boy’ is a series based on an English novel by leading writer Vikram Seth and is primarily about a young girl’s search for an ideal husband. It has been directed by celebrated Indian filmmaker Mira Nair.
The Madhya Pradesh police has lodged a First Action Report(FIR) in the Rewa district and named vice president of streaming platform Netflix in it. The FIR has been filed against the makers and the platform owners for allegedly having hurt religious sentiments. This happened after Bharatiya Janata Party members and several Hindutva activists began raising objections about one of the scenes in the Netflix series A Suitable Boy.
The issue came to the broad day light when Gaurav Tiwari, who is a leader from the BJP tweeted a copy of the FIR and thanked Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra for his support in the matter. The FIR had been filed under Section 295-A of the IPC against Ambika Khurana and Monika Shergil. Shergil is the VP at Netflix India and Khurana is its director of public policy.
Mishra had said that the series and its contents were hurting peoples’s religious sentiments in a video message that he posted on his Twitter handle. Mishra said that the main objection was that a kissing scene was filmed in the temple premises with a bhajan(religious song) playing at the background and he found such content objectionable.
He tweeted,“Police officials will examine the content and decide on the actions that can be taken against the producer and director of the film and the OTT platform.”
He also tweeted,“As per the script a Muslim youth is in love with a Hindu woman. But why were all the kissing scenes shot in the temple premises.”
He filed an FIR with the Madhya Pradesh and urged the audiences to uninstall Netflix.
He also said that the Madhya Pradesh government would soon launch a law to tackle the problem of love jihad with a jail term of five years.
This is a word that has been quite often used by many right wing organisations to indicate at an alleged conspiracy by Muslim men to lure and trap Hindu women and force them to covert into Islam.
Many states have showcased their interest to announce legislations to counter the problem of love jihad and they have been quite assertive of this concern despite the fact that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had told the Lok Sabha that nothing like love jiagad existed in the country.
It is also to be noted that the Centre also recently issued an order for bringing online news platforms under the surveillance radar and OTT platforms like Netflix, Hotstar and many other platforms are also being strictly monitored.