Writers, journalists and civil society activists gathered outside the Lahore Press Club on Monday in protest against the ban on Nandita Das film Manto.
“Manto was screened all over the world and it won an award in Bangladesh but it was banned in the writer’s own country,” lamented journalist and secretary general of Manto Memorial Society Saeed Ahmed.
He said Manto himself was not treated well in Pakistan and when he came to Lahore after the Partition, his entry was banned into the radio station. The ‘new Pakistan’ under the PTI government was treating him the same way as he was treated in old Pakistan 10 years back, he said, appealing to the government to lift the ban on the movie. He said it was a countrywide protest as similar demonstrations against the ban on Manto were being held in Karachi and Peshawar.
Calling for the freedom of expression, painter Salima Hashmi said: “Manto was kept deprived of this right in his life and after so many years, he is still facing the same oppression.”
She said Manto was the most read Urdu prose writer in the world, condemning the attitude of the government towards him.
Veteran journalist Hussain Naqi said Manto was the most-read and most-translated Pakistani writer who was known all over the world and banning the film made on his life could not be justified from any point of view. He also condemned the alleged government action against the Manto festival scheduled to be held at Alhamra Art Centre.
“One of the best works on Partition and subsequent years are in the form of Manto’s short stories which are as important as poetry of Faiz Sahib,” he added.
Abdul Waheed of the Progressive Writers Association said the ban on film showed Manto was as unacceptable for the state institution as he was 70 years back which exposed the stagnation of society. He said the nation had not progressed socially, morally and intellectually.
Farooq Tariq of the Awami Workers Party praised Nandita Das’s film on Manto, saying the protest was against the ban on the movie that was screened across the world except in Pakistan. Writer Husssain Majrooh also spoke.
Originally published in Dawn, January 15th, 2019