An Assamese television serial was on Monday banned by local authorities for two months over allegations of hurting religious sentiments. The ban order, accessed by Scroll.in, was issued by Guwahati Police Commissioner MP Gupta, saying the show was likely to incite violence.
The regional entertainment channel, Rengoni, which aired the weekly serial Begum Jaan, rejected the accusations. The order, however, said a show cause notice will be served to Rengoni TV for violation of programme code. “The serial contains visuals or words contemptuous and defamatory of a particular religion and section of society,” it added.
The order said complaints were received from Hindu Jagran Manch, a body linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and other groups including the All Assam Brahmin Youth Council, United Trust of Assam. The Guwahati unit of Hindu Jagran Manch has called for a ban on the show ever since it was aired in July.
According to NDTV, the serial was allegedly banned for promoting “love jihad” and denigrating Hindu and Assamese cultures. However, the channel claimed that the serial was not derogatory to any religion or community.
“It has nothing to do with love jihad,” Sanjive Narain, chairperson and managing director of Rengoni TV said. “It is about a Hindu girl who falls into trouble in a Muslim locality and saved by a Muslim man. Our legal team is on it. This is the first time here that such an action has been taken. We don’t see anything which is derogatory to any religion in this serial.”
The Hindu Jagran Manch told NDTV that they would protest whenever any serial or movie tries to show Hindu society in a demeaning way. “Begum Jaan does not depict the ethos of Hindu society or the Assamese society in correct sense,” Mrinal Kumar Lashkar, the state chief of the organisation said. “It belittles the Brahmins, in the Assamese society already love jihad is there and this serial can trigger it more.”
The Guwahati police commissioner said the serial was discussed at the district level monitoring committee, which has 10 members. “It was decided to ban it for two months because there are apprehensions that there may be a breach of peace; and prima facie, there are allegations that it hurts religious sentiments of a section of the society,” he added.
Actor Preety Kongkona, the main protagonist of the serial, said she has been harassed by trolls on social media and even received rape threats. There have been allegations that the police have not taken any action on the complaint filed by Kongkona. “I had faith on authorities and law,” the actor told NDTV. “It is a kind of verbal rape what they did on social media. Nowadays it has become a trend to abuse and troll artists on social media. It is very painful.”
The police said they are investigating Kongkona’s complaint. “We have lodged a case in Dispur police station and investigation is on,” Gupta said. “Law will take its course.”