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After ‘The Kerala Story’, Row Over ‘The Diary of West Bengal’; BJP Says Mamata Govt ‘Suppressing Free Speech’

The BJP said the TMC government was trying to “intimidate” director Sanoj Mishra as the film targeted CM Mamata Banerjee. (Image: PTI/File)

West Bengal police have issued a notice to director Sanoj Mishra alleging that he is trying to “defame” the state with this movie, and that he has to appear for questioning in Kolkata on May 30

An initial ban on The Kerala Story in West Bengal created quite a furore before it was allowed to be released in the state. Now, a controversy has erupted over a yet-to-be released film, The Diary of West Bengal, with police issuing a notice to the director alleging that he was trying to “defame” the state with this movie.

The BJP, meanwhile, attacked the Mamata Banerjee-led government and said it was trying to muzzle freedom of speech and expression once again, as it had when The Kerala Story was released in the country. The saffron camp said the TMC was trying to “intimidate” the director as the film targeted the chief minister. In fact, BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya even shared a clip from the trailer of the film and said nothing in it appeared to be factually incorrect.

Hailing from Maharashtra, film-maker Sanoj Mishra has directed The Diary of West Bengal. It is presented by Wasim Rizvi Films and written as well as produced by Jitendra Narayan Singh. The film claims to be based on “true events”. Jitendra Narayan Singh, formerly Wasim Rizvi and ex-chairman of the Shia Waqf Board, converted to Hinduism in December 2021.

According to sources in the police, Mishra has been served a notice under Section 41A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to appear for questioning at the Amherst Street police station in Kolkata on May 30. An FIR has been registered under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, Information Technology Act and Cinematography Act.

But Mishra denied that he was trying to defame West Bengal and said the movie was factual. “My intention is not to malign the image of the state. We have shown only facts in the film which are well-researched,” he told ANI. He added that the shooting of his film was not yet over and the team was likely to submit it to the Central Board of Film Certification next month.

Malviya said the movie depicted the “lived experience of many” in West Bengal. “After a failed attempt to ban The Kerala Story (the film is still not in theatres because owners are being threatened with punitive action, if they do), Mamata Banerjee’s administration is now intimidating the director and producer of The Diary of West Bengal, a movie based on true events, on the prevailing condition in the State. The notice to filmmakers is uncalled for because nothing in the trailer appears factually incorrect. It is lived experience of many in Bengal,” he tweeted.

He added: “Mamata Banerjee should stop muzzling freedom of speech and expression. She runs a vile decrepit Govt and it is a matter of time that people of Bengal will reduce her regime to dust.”

According to a report published by Hindustan Times, the narrator in the trailer of the film claims that Bengal has become a “second Kashmir” for “unorganised Hindus”, while a character alleges that “Mamata’s love for Rohingya Muslims” is forcing Hindus to leave their homes. The trailer also highlights the so-called appeasement politics by the TMC government, which has led to restrictions on Hindu festivals.

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