Caste on the Menu Card: JNU screens beef documentary

A documentary on beef eating that was in the news for being blocked from being shown at a film festival was today screened on the JNU campus here by a students’ group despite the varsity officials taking a U-turn and revoking permission for the same.

The documentary, ‘Caste on the Menu Card’, grabbed headlines earlier in the week after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting refused clearance for its screening at an ongoing film festival.

It was the only documentary among 35 others that failed to get an exemption from certification (given to documentary films) for screening at the 12th Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival organised by the Centre for Civil Society (CCS).

The filmmakers then decided to go ahead with independent screenings, the first of which was scheduled to be held at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University.

JNU’s Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students’ Association (BAPSA) said that while the administration had given permission for the screening at 9.30 PM on the lawns of the campus’s Sabarmati Hostel followed by a discussion, the nod was revoked this afternoon.

Manikanta Bahujan, a BAPSA member, said that the warden of the Sabarmati Hostel withdrew the permission just before the scheduled screening this evening. Bahujan charged that the warden had acted under “political pressure from outside”.

However, Deo Shankar Navin, the warden, said that the nod was withdrawn because the students were screening the movie in an area where it was not within his jurisdiction to authorise a screening.

“They were screening the movie on the lawns of the hostel. When I gave permission yesterday, I wasn’t aware that the area is not under my jurisdiction, but today I came to know I am not authorised to give permission for that area.

“I asked the students to take permission from the Dean (students),” he said as he denied allegations that there was any political pressure to deny permission.

“There is no pressure from anywhere. I don’t even know what the movie is about,” he said.

The documentary was made in 2014 by five students of the School of Media and Cultural Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, as part of their course work.

Training the lens on food practices in Mumbai, the 21- minute film aims to portray the prevalence of caste and touches upon concerns related to livelihood, social inclusion and human rights.

“The film portrays the prevalence of caste differentiation in food choices of people in Mumbai, how it causes exclusion, and touches upon concerns related to livelihood, social inclusion and human rights,” said Ananya Gaur, one of the makers of the documentary.