ULFA ban on Hindi films defied

Guwahati Nov. 13. Members of film organisations and movie stars of Assam, who have decided to defy the ULFA "ban" on screening Hindi films in the State from November 15, went on a hunger strike today protesting the move by the insurgent outfit.

Speakers at the hunger strike organised by the Eastern India Motion Pictures said that the banned outfit was neither the cultural police nor equipped to protect local culture "when they avidly patronise pornographic movies as evidenced by the recovery of blue film cassettes from their camps."

The speakers also criticised the ULFA for singling out Hindi films ignoring English ones or videos of "vulgar remixes of Hindi songs telecast by music channels which they also watch."

The ULFA and eight militant outfits of the North East had on August 15 announced ban on Hindi films from November 15 describing them as `cultural invasion in its worst form'.

The ban, the speakers said would lead 6000 film industry employees to lose jobs and affect 50,000 dependents.

Most of the 150 registered halls would have to shut down as sans Hindi films they could barely remain open for four months if they were to screen only 15 to 19 regional movies produced annually. Screening only regional films therefore was totally unviable, they said.

The speakers included Assamese film stars Nippon Goswami, Biju Phukan, Pranjal Saikia, Zerifa Wahid, besides representatives from cinema hall owners and film industry worker unions.

The speakers said it was also not reasonable to ask industry workers to seek alternative work within three months as per the ULFA's fiat.

EIMPA chairman C.S. Narayan also appealed to the ULFA to review its ban as it would "directly affect the survival of the film industry in the State."

The hunger strikers include members of EIMPA, Assam Cine Art Development Association, N-E Film and TV Technicians Association, Assam Cine Employees Union, Guwahati Cine Musician Association, Cinema Hall Owners Association and Assam Cine Journalists Association.

The State Government has come out in full support of the film industry's decision to continue screening of Hindi films with the Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, stating that security in and around cinema halls had been stepped up. "The question of halting Hindi movies from being screened does not arise. If any cinema hall owner demands additional security it will definitely be provided," Mr. Gogoi has said. -- PTI