Right-wing Hindu fringe groups threatened to disrupt the screening of Bollywood period drama Padmaavat after the Supreme Court lifted a ban on the controversial film.
Rajasthan and Haryana, where the BJP governments had banned the film, said though they respect the top court order they will explore the option of filing an appeal. The film, starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor, is scheduled for release on January 25. It ran into controversy as Hindu groups protested against the release of the film, saying it distorts history and presents the Rajput community in a poor light.
Earlier on Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down the ban on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat and ensured its all-India release. The ban was imposed by four states — Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh — despite the film being cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria said the state will “abide by the order”.
“My department and I will look for a legal provision, if one is possible, after reading Supreme Court’s decision and then we will move forward,” said Kataria.
Haryana health minister Anil Vij, who had earlier said he will not allow the movie to be screened, said the top court gave the decision without hearing their side. He added since “the Supreme Court is supreme we will abide by the decision and see if there is a scope of appealing against it”.
The threats, however, continued to pour in from fringe Hindu right-wing activists, ranging from jauhar (mass self-immolation by women) to burning cinema halls that screen the film. BJP’s Rajput leader Suraj Pal Amu, who had offered a Rs 10-crore bounty for beheading Padukone and Bhansali, said he will protest in a peaceful manner.
“The Supreme Court order has hurt the sentiments of lakhs and crores of Hindus. My protest will continue, even if I am hanged for it,” Amu said. On November 29 last year, Amu had resigned as chief media coordinator of the BJP’s state unit, days after the party served a show cause notice to him for the Rs 10-crore bounty offer.
In Chhattisgarh, members of the Rajput community submitted a memorandum to state home minister Ramsewak Paikra, demanding a ban on the release of Padmaavat, saying cinema halls screening the film will be burnt down. A Rajput Karni Sena leader in Ujjain said his group will intensify their opposition to the film.
“We have given call for a janta curfew on January 25, where our supporters will urge the citizens not to watch the film,” said Sena member Thakur Lokendra Singh Kalvi. He added the details of the agitation and further course of action would be announced in Mumbai on Friday,”.
The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed a ban on Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat imposed by four states, ensuring an all India release of the film on January 25.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also restrained any other state from issuing such notifications and orders prohibiting exhibition of the movie. The bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud observed that the states are obliged to maintain law and order.
“We direct that there shall be a stay of operation on the notification and orders issued and we also restrain other states from issuing such notifications or orders in this matter,” the bench said in its interim order.
Senior advocates Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, representing Viacom 18 and other producers of the movie, told the bench that states have no power to issue such notifications banning exhibition of a film when the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has given a certificate of release.
“If states are banning a film, then it is destroying federal structure. It is a serious matter. If somebody has a problem,then he or she can approach appellate tribunal for relief. State can’t touch the content of a film.”
“Request the Central government to pass a direction to the states for a better and an effective step and solution,” he added. The bench has posted the matter for further hearing in March.