The Big Story: Sena of violence
Ever since the Supreme Court struck down the bans announced by several states on the movie Padmaavat last week, the governments in these places have been brought to their knees by the Karni Sena. Till a few months ago, this group was considered a fringe outfit confined to Rajasthan. But in the last two weeks, the caste organisation, which was originally formed in 2005 to demand reservations for the Rajput community, has managed to stoke agitations in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and even Jammu and Kashmir.
On Wednesday, the country was witness to horrific scenes of school children in Gurugram in Haryana taking cover under the seats of their bus as stones were hurdled on the vehicle. The glass windows were smashed. The terrified kids cried even as the teachers tried to call for police help. The Gurugram administration has now imposed prohibitory orders.
The scale of the protests betray a larger political plot playing behind this violence. As early as in November, the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan declared that it would not allow the screening of the movie, which depicts the story of Rani Padmini, a revered figure among the Rajputs. The Central Board of Film Certification delayed the clearance of the movie and then curiously formed a committee of historians to go through the movie. Even a parliamentary committee interfered. The board finally cleared the movie on December 30 and asked the makers to change its title from Padmaavati to Padmaavat. All the suggestions made by the CBFC were fulfilled by the film producers. They even used graphics to cover Deepika Padukone’s midriff.
Despite the CBFC certification, several Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states banned the screeing of the movie, forcing the filmmakers to approach the Supreme Court. The apex court last week slammed the protestors and asked the state government to ensure protection to cinema screens playing the film. “It is the duty and obligation of the states to maintain law and order,” the court said.
What is clearly emerging out of this controversy is the complicity of the party in power in the protests against the film. With Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh going to polls later this year, the Bharatiya Janata Party is clearly in no mood to take on powerful caste groups like the Rajputs. This is perhaps a reflection of the lessons it learned in Gujarat, where the mishandling of the Patidar protests hurt the base of the party and brought its numbers down in the Assembly.
On Wednesday, Union Minister of State for Law PP Choudhary said the government had the option of moving a curative petition before the Supreme Court to stop the movie. Given the reluctance of the government to act against the violent agitators, the Multiplex Owners’ Association declared that it will not screen the movie in the problematic states.
By repeatedly trying to stall the movie rather than clamp down on the violent mobs, the governments both at the Centre and the states have shown scant regard to constitutional rights of freedom of speech and expression. This inaction is also a contempt of the orders of the Supreme Court, which would hopefully intervene more emphatically to rescue the movie from fanatical elements.
The Big Scroll
- By banning ‘Padmaavat’, BJP CMs are undermining the censor chief their own party appointed.
- The approach to making buildings friendlier for persons with disabilities has been limited and perfunctory, writes Bibek Debroy in Indian Express.
- Rather than seize new opportunities flowing from technology, bus corporations are lobbying for price control and heavy-handed regulation to obstruct new entrants, G Ananthakrishnan arguesin The Hindu.
- As the Ramayana travelled from India to South-East Asia, the stories underwent nuanced changes, making the plots radically different in some cases, says Salil Tripathi in Mint.
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