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Shabnam Hashmi in the US
July-August 2002
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Press Release, May 23, 2002

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Sahmat Statement, May 23rd, 2002

We strongly condemn the patently illegal police action in Velim in South Goa on May 21,2002 where video cassettes being screened for promoting communal harmony were seized from a private show. It is ironical that the chief minister of Goa, who belongs to a party which is so blatantly spewing communal venom on the minorities in the country, claims that the screening constitutes an offense under section 153-A and 153-B of the Indian Penal Code. This section relates to creating enemity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc.

Three independent film makers have made short video films - Hey Ram, by Gopal Menon, Evil Stalks The Land, by Gauhar Raza and In the Name of Faith, by Pankaj Shankar following the carnage in Gujarat. The films are based on interviews of the victims of violence who unambiguously accuse the BJP state administration and the different wings of the Sangh Parivar and its ideology responsible for the carnage. The films have a clear message of communal amity and express full faith in secular India. It is the secular message of these films that has rattled the BJP in Goa faced with the impending electoral defeat.

The police action in Goa constitutes a gross violation of the constitutional right of freedom of expression. Given the complexion of the government there and the secular character of the films, this communal offensive against secular creativity has to be defeated by the joint efforts of all democratic and secular groups.

Shabnam Hashmi, Ram Rahman, Sahmat