(G.N.S) Dt. 22
Barely days ahead of the scheduled release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Padmaavat’ on January 25, protests and agitations against the controversy-hit film have escalated. Members of the fringe group – Karni Sena, which has been at the forefront of violent agitations against the film — have gone on a rampage in several states across the country demanding a countrywide ban on the release of the film. This, despite the apex court ruling otherwise.
On January 18, the Supreme Court ordered lifting of the ban on the release and screening of the film. The state governments of Gujarat and Rajasthan had banned the release of the film in their respective states. The court had also restrained other state governments from issuing similar orders. While the SC order ought to have paved way for a peaceful end to the threats and protests that have characterised a piece of artistic expression, the reality has been anything but that.
– Protests against the film turned violent in Gujarat where protesters set ablaze buses and resorted to violence and arson. Buses were burnt in Gandhinagar, Mehsana and Ahmedabad districts of the state by protesters demanding a ban over the film. Transport services have been hit with the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation suspending services in the northern part of the state following violent protests. Protesters also vandalised Rajhans Cinemas in Ahmedabad late on Saturday night.
– Members of the Rajput community staged protests against Padmaavat in Haryana, with some groups issuing open threats of burning down theatres if multiplexes went ahead and screened the film. Members of the Karni Sena distributed a memorandum in all Gurugram theatres asking them not to screen Padmaavat. When asked what would they do when the film is screened on January 25, the group said, “wait and watch what happens on 25th”.
– Members of some of the protesting outfits, including the Karni Sena and other Rajput organisations, damaged Noida’s busy DND flyover counters against the release of the film in Uttar Pradesh. Though the counters were non-operational – the DND flyover is currently free for use – the protesters ran rampage on the road. The Karni Sena members said they will be meeting CM Yogi Adityanath and seek his intervention to stop the screening of the film. A total of 14 people were detained for the violence.
– Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has written to the theatre owners in the state advising them against the release of the film. He has, however, clarified, that theatres that choose to go ahead with the screening of the film will be provided police security.
– The state governments of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments have approached the top court seeking a relook at its decision to allow the film’s release. Meanwhile, the film’s distributors in Rajasthan have backed out, signalling uncertainty in the screening of the film in the state.
– Threats have been issued to CBFC chairman Prasoon Joshi that he will not be allowed to enter Rajasthan. He has since been accorded top ‘Z’ category security for his upcoming visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival.
While the final decision on the matter rests with the apex court, state governments have been notable in their inability to control the situation from spiralling out of hand. Mob violence over any issue, leave aside one that the SC has already ruled on – merits a stern hand from the administration, lest it is seen as the tacit support of the state.
Even state governments, including those which have moved the top court against the decision, need to ensure that law and order is upheld even if it holds certain views on the release of the film. Caste politics and vote banks have been seen as the biggest reason behind the lawlessness that the fringe has been allowed to perpetrate upon the common people. The state governments would be well-advised to instil the fear of law among the fringe. In not doing so, they risk taking the Supreme Court as well as the electorate for granted.
Protest against Padmavat in UP; various rajput bodies warn theatre owners
Handing out a terse warning to theatre owners against screening Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s now re-named, re-edited Padmavaat set for January 25 release, various Rajput and Hindu bodies on Sunday demonstrated in different parts of Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP government is yet to take an official stand on the movie’s release.
To pressurise the Yogi Adityanath government, that was among the first few in the country to recommend ban Padmaavat in its previous avatar, the All India Kshatriya Mahasabha, Karni Sena along with few right wing outfits like Hindu Sena held demonstrations across the state.
After Thursday’s Supreme Court order striking down the ban on Padmaavat’s screening imposed by four states on the ground that the movie could enrage passions and create law and order problem, the Rajput bodies, which claim that Bhansali hasn’t done justice to Mewar queen Padmavati’s character, have revised their strategy. Instead of pinning hopes on the government, they are now trying to threaten cinema hall owners to voluntarily say no to the movie’s screening.
“Har woh cinema ghar jalega jisme Padmaavat chalega (All cinema halls screening Padmaavat would be set on fire),” chanted Rajput youths who staged protests in the state capital’s Hazratganj area on Sunday.
“In the case of Muzaffarnagar – A Burning Love, a film set in the backdrop of 2013 riots that engulfed western UP, the police allowed only selective release. It wasn’t screened in several west UP districts despite the fact that there was no administrative order banning the movie’s release. We want the government to do that here as well,” an agitated protestor said.
In Noida protests were held outside some multiplexes while in Shamli and Gorakhpur effigies of Bhansali and actors essaying the role of Rajput king and queen were burnt.
“Our youths are talking to cinema hall owners on the issue. We respect the Supreme Court but at the same time the society is feeling hurt at the manner in which our sentiments have been hurt by the cinematic depiction of the character of a queen who is revered by the Rajputs,” said Pratapgarh MP Harivansh Singh, the national chief of All India Kshatriya Mahasabha.
In UP, police officials admit that the Supreme Court order leaves little scope for any doubt about the film’s release. “It’s a categorical order and we would do what the honourable court has ordered. As far as protests are concerned, we would persuade protestors not to take the law in their hands,” said Anand Kumar, UP’s additional director general (crime and law and order).
In neighbouring Uttarakhand, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has made it clear that the movie will be screened. In UP too, senior government officials, who had in August 2011 seen apex court striking down the state government’s two month ban on the screening of Prakash Jha’s ‘Aarakshan’, agree that there is little the government can do.
While admitting that they feared violent protests, cinema hall owners, however, are hoping that the government will ensure security.
“We are confident that the government will deploy adequate security outside our theatres and multiplexes,” said one of the hall owners.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s office and senior officials of the state’s home department weren’t available for comment on the issue of threats to cinema hall owners.
Rajasthan-MP govts asks SC to reconsider order on Padmaavat release, seeks ban
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of its order.
Not willing to budge from their stand Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of its order allowing pan-India release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial film Padmaavat. The top court is slated to hear the matter on Tuesday.
The move comes even as cinema hall owners in Madhya Pradesh have told the government that they would follow Supreme Court order and release the film, starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, in all theatres across the state on January 25. According to them, the film will be released in at least 150 theatres across Madhya Pradesh.
In Rajasthan, the protests against the film have intensified, with Sri Rajput Karni Sena going all out against the film and asking theatre owners to not screen the movie till Supreme Court decides on the review petition filed by the state. Meanwhile, thousands of women brandishing swords on Sunday took out a ‘Chetavani Rally’ or a warning march in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh town to warn the authorities to stop the release of ‘Padmaavat’ movie or else be prepared for ‘jauhar’ by them.
Among the protesters were women, said to total 1,908, who have already registered for performing ‘jauhar’ (committing suicide by jumping into fire) in Chittorgarh.
The protesters began their march from the Chittorgarh Fort and ended it at the main market in the town where they submitted a memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to District Collector Indrajeet Singh.
Rajput Karni Sena has, meanwhile, said that the body will approach cinema hall owners across India in the next three days to request them not to screen the Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie. Karni Sena spokesperson Vijendra Singh further said that cinema hall owners screening Padmaavat would face the consequences.
It’s not just in Rajasthan that the protests have intensified. On Sunday, members of Karni Sena and other Rajput organisations damaged DND flyover toll plaza counters and set ablaze a barrier.
Violent protests by members of the Rajput community were also witnessed across Gujarat on Sunday, with agitators damaging buses and blocking roads.Following incidents of protesters damaging and setting buses on fire, the police issued a stern warning and deployed more personnel in the affected areas. The Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) also suspended its services in northern parts of the state.