Septic tank deaths are fine, but a film about them is not

Poster for the film Kakkoos

The movie Kakkoos has been running into rough times with the police. Screenings of the movie have been blocked in Parakkai (Kanyakumari district), Coimbatore and Madurai. Police have said that screening the film may cause law and order problems. This is preposterous, because the film is just reportage. It reports on the realities of the lives of sanitation workers, sewer cleaners, and other such workers, many of whom essentially do manual scavenging. Laws against manual scavenging have been passed in 1993 and 2013. The film points out failures in their implementation, for example how the deaths of workers in septic tanks have not resulted in any punishments of the people responsible. “We are being called anti-social for pointing out that the law is not being followed,” says Divya, the director of Kakkoos. “It also speaks of the level of Dalit consciousness among our government and police,” she said. 

The first screening of the film was held at MM Preview theater in Chennai. The film has been  praised for being powerful from various quarters including media, labour groups and citizens. The second screening was scheduled for March 2nd in Parakkai, and was organized by a group ‘Nizharthaangal’. It is said to have been blocked by the police on the ground that the film did not have a certificate from the censor board. Director Divya said they will eventually apply for a censor board certification, but that would be with the aim of exposing the nature of the censorship process. Prior to the scheduled screening, Lakshmi Manivannan, secretary of Nizharthangal, had been receiving phone calls from people who claimed to be from the IB, according to Divya. In the end, they did not screen the movie, and instead just had a discussion with Divya.

Madurai Police Order blocking the screening of Kakkoos

On March 8, there was a screening scheduled in Coimbatore, organized by Samaka Neeti Kakshi (a group formed by sanitation workers). On March 9th, a screening was organized by AISA in Madurai. Both these screenings were blocked by the police. In Madurai, AISA demanded for a written letter, and got one, which was shared with Thozhilalar Koodam. The letter states that the screening of the film would cause law and order problem.

On March 12th in Madurai, Viduthalai Ciruthaikal Katchi (VCK) managed to screen the film after a regular meeting. Divya opines that the screening was not announced earlier and hence the police may not have gotten wind of it to stop it. However, what’s evident is that there was no law and order issue that were reported after the film was screened.

More screenings are scheduled. There is a March 18th screening in Pure cinema hall, Chennai. There is another March 18th screening in Periyar Thidal, Chennai as part of Marupakkam film festival. On March 19th, there is a screening near Chennai press club organized by AIPF, which will be attended by Bezwada Wilson. Director Divya said that Left groups SFI, DYFI, AISF, AISA and RYI are wholeheartedly fighting to question the blocking and censorship of the movie. She also said they aim to circulate DVDs.

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