The Gujarat Multiplex Owners’ Association on Wednesday said that no theatre in the state would screen Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Padmaavat, CNN News18 reported. Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had earlier said that most theatre owners had “voluntarily” decided against screening the movie.
Union Minister of State for Law and Justice PP Choudhary said on Wednesday that the Centre could file a curative petition in the Supreme Court against the movie.
“Residents have decided to meet managers of cinema halls and peacefully request them not to screen the film,” said Jitender Chauhan, a national executive member of the Rajput Karni Sena that has been leading the protest against the film, according to The Indian Express.
Several states stepped up security anticipating violence ahead of the release of the movie. The film, which has been mired in controversy, is set to hit screens across the country on Thursday after the Supreme Court said it will not modify its order lifting the ban on the film in four states.
In Maharashtra, the police identified certain districts like Aurangabad, Nashik and Kolhapur as “sensitive pockets” and issued advisories to increase security arrangements there.
In Haryana, the Gurugram district magistrate has imposed prohibitory orders in the city as several Rajput and Gujjar-dominated villages decided to stage demonstrations on Wednesday against the screening of the film. Protestors set a bus on fire in Gurugram and started pelting stones to protest against the film’s release, ANI reported. Clubs and bars in Gurugram have been ordered to shut down from 7 pm on Thursday till further orders in light of the protests.
Several protestors also blocked the Delhi-Jaipur Highway, while a train in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura was stopped at Bhuteshwar railway station. There were reports of violence from Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, where 10 masked men vandalised a mall. The police said they were looking for the men. “We will provide security to the mall when the film is screened,” Chakrapani Tripathi, Circle Officer, Civil Lines told ANI.
Lokendra Singh Kalvi of the Rajput Karni Sena told CNN News18 that the outfit would not allow the film to be screened. “January 25 will come and go but the movie will not,” he said. “It is sad that people’s vehicles are being torched, but the “janta [people’s] curfew” must be respected.” He claimed that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or Bajrang Dal could be responsible for setting vehicles afire across the country.
Kalvi said that the Karni Sena’s focus would be on stopping the screening of the film in states where it was not banned by the administration. “Protests will take place there, bullets will also be fired. I am willing to take the bullets but the “janta curfew” will continue.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to give an urgent hearing to a plea filed by lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma, seeking certain scenes from Padmaavat be deleted. The court will hear the matter on Monday.
Vandalism in Gujarat
On Tuesday evening, dozens of people vandalised three malls and a standalone theatre complex and torched vehicles in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The police had to open fire to control the mob on the SG highway in the city.
At least 48 people have been taken into custody, ANI reported on Wednesday. “Four FIRs have been registered,” said Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police AK Singh. Akhil Bhartiya Kshatriya Mahasabha President Bhuvneshwar Singh was booked and charged with sedition after he threatened to attack the Parliament over the movie’s release, according to The Indian Express.
Chittor Fort shuts down
The Chittor Fort, the setting of the Padmavati legend in Chittorgarh, was shut down for a day on Wednesday after members of the Karni Sena tried to break in, NDTV reported. The outfit has threatened that thousands of Rajput women would commit “jauhar” (self-immolation) at the fort if Padmaavat is screened in Rajasthan.
Meanwhile, the police arrested Govind Singh Khangarot, the chief of the Karni Sena’s Chittorgarh unit, and his deputy Kamlendu Singh Solanki late on Tuesday night, IANS reported.
Padmaavat’s release and certification were delayed and stalled because of repeated protests and threats of violence by Rajput groups led by the Rajput Karni Sena. Protestors have claimed the film distorted the “history of Hindus” and insulted Queen Padmini. Most historians believe Padmini was a mythical character and never existed in reality, but Rajput and right-wing groups say otherwise.