Vivek Agnihotri's "The Kashmir Files" has courted a controversy in New Zealand with the country's chief censor reviewing the film's classification, a move that has been criticised by a former deputy prime minister. Written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri, "The Kashmir Files" depicts the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the Kashmir Valley in the 1990s.
New Zealand outlet Stuff on Saturday reported that the country's chief censor David Shanks is reviewing the film's R16 classification after concerns were raised by the Muslim community ahead of the movie's release on March 24.
According to New Zealand's Classification Office, a R16 certificate mandates that a film cannot be viewed by children below 16 without adult supervision.
Shanks told the outlet that the classification office's action does not mean the film is being banned in the country.
He added that the members of the Muslim community had approached him with concerns the film "could raise anti-Muslim sentiment and potential hatred".
Shanks revealed that the situation was "complex" as the concerns of the community pertained to "behaviours on and offline in relation to the film, rather than the content of the film itself".
The concerns raised were valid and serious, so it was important to "take stock and pause", he added.
Shanks said that the film's initial classification had been issued without knowledge of these concerns.
The chief censor's move has been criticised by Winston Peters, the country's former deputy prime minister and leader of political party New Zealand First.
In a Facebook post, titled "The 'Kashmir Files' Censored: Another Attack on the Freedom of New Zealanders", Peters said, "To censor this film is tantamount to censoring information or images from the March 15th atrocities in New Zealand, or for that matter removing from public knowledge all images of the attack on 9/11."
He was referring to the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings in which a single gunman killed 51 people and injured 40.
"Mainstream Muslims have both in this coand around the world readily and rightly denounced all forms of terrorism on the basis that committing violence in the name of Islam is not Muslim.
"Neither should steps taken against Islamophobia mistakenly lead to the shielding of terrorists in the name of Islam," Peters wrote.
"This attempt at selective censorship would amount to one further attack on the freedom of New Zealanders and people worldwide," he added.
"The Kashmir Files" features Anupam Kher, Pallavi Joshi, Mithun Chakraborty and Darshan Kumar.
Since its release on March 11, the film has sparked a debate among the various political parties of India as well as the audiences.
Several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Karnataka, Tripura and Goa, have exempted the film from entertainment tax.
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