Anti-‘Padmaavat’ Protests: SC to Hear Contempt Pleas; Bajrang Dal Workers Clash With Police

The Supreme Court will hear two separate contempt pleas against four state governments and Karni Sena members on January 29.

Members of the Rajput community protest against the release of ‘Padmaavat’ in Mumbai. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: As certain groups continue to hold multiple states ransom over the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie, film distributors in BJP-ruled Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have decided not to pick up the film’s reels while cinema halls have agreed not to screen it despite the Supreme Court rejecting the plea to cancel the censor board certificate issued to Padmaavat.

“The local management has told us that the law and order situation is not conducive,” PTI quoted the president of Multiplex Association of India, which represents about 75% of multiplex owners, as saying.

Congress supporter Tehseen Poonawalla on Thursday filed a contempt petition seeking action against Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments for failing to maintain law and order.

A lawyer has separately filed a contempt plea seeking action against members of Karni Sena for violating the SC order. The court will hear both pleas on January 29.

On Wednesday, protestors claiming to be members of the Karni Sena attacked a school bus on the outskirts of Delhi. The attackers threw stones at the bus, smashing its windows.

“There were policemen, but no one was listening to them. The protestors didn’t care,” said a teacher on the bus. Nobody was injured but a video of the incident shot fr inside the bus shows terrified students ducking and cowering in fearing fear.

haryana padmavati

Credit: ANI

Protestors also stopped and burned  a Haryana Roadways bus. “Although chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, earlier seeing the public sentiments, had directed the theatres to not release the film but respecting the Supreme Court’s order, he had also said whichever theatres will be showing the flick (sic), they will be provided with high security,” state health minister Anil Vij told ANI.

While multiple media houses reported that the Khattar government has ordered pubs and restaurants to shut down fearing similar attacks, a senior police officer denied the claim. “We have already imposed (prohibitory orders under) Section 144 of the CrPC in the city but not directed pubs and bars to shut. All pubs and bars will remain open. The police are undertaking adequate patrolling,” he told PTI.

In Rajasthan, the Chittor Fort was shut down for the second time in its centuries-old history after Karni Sena members tried to break in. According to a Karni Sena member, over 1,500 women have registered their names, addresses and consent letters from their families with the Jauhar Samiti in Chittorgarh.

“If the film’s screening is not stopped, they will perform jauhar (mass immolation). The men will go to cinema halls with swords to stop its screening,” he told IANS.

Days after the members of the group ransacked a school in Madhya Pradesh after hearing the ‘Ghoomar’ song being played during its annual day event, ‘fringe’ groups have continued raising hell in the state as various outfits staged demonstrations in Indore and other towns and blocked a national highway.

Members of Rajput youth wing shout slogans during a protest against the release of ‘Padmaavat’ in Ahmedabad. Credit: Reuters

Nearly 200 protesters blocked National Highway-3, which links Agra with Mumbai, near Pigdambar crossing in Kishanganj area in Indore district and broke glass bottles on the road, reported PTI. Around 50 Karni Sena activists also burnt an effigy of Bhansali on the Indore-Depalpur road.

In Ahmedabad, the police were forced to open fire to control a mob on the SG highway after dozens of hooligans vandalised a mall and torched vehicles on January 23. Police filed six FIRs against 100 people involved in the violence.

Several members of the Gujarat cabinet met leaders of the Rajput community in Gandhinagar, reported Indian Express. After the meeting, minister for law and justice Bhupendrasinh Chudasma announced that the leaders present in the meeting have unanimously agreed not to participate in the bandh on Thursday.

“In our principled fight which is not just the Kshatriya community but for the entire Hindu community, there is no place for arson or violence. We all condemn the things that anti-social elements did yesterday,” said the minister. “If a historical event or character is wrongly or crudely depicted then it will not be tolerated. Earlier, some multiplexes had decided not to showcase this film and today those remaining have also decided to [film]. When those showing the film have taken a stance, then the issue does not stand in Gujarat anymore.”

“The main motive of our protest was the release of the film in Gujarat. When the movie is not going to be released in the state, then there should not be any protest on this issue,” a Rajput leader present at the meeting told the media.

Deepika Padukone visits a temple before the release of her upcoming film ‘Padmaavat’ in Mumbai. Credit: Reuters

In Kanpur, the Kshatriya Mahasabha on Wednesday announced a cash reward for anyone chopping off actor Deepika Padukone’s nose. “We have collected a bounty of crores of rupees from Kanpurites to be given as reward to anyone who will bring the chopped off nose of Deepika Padukone,” Kanpur Kshatriya Mahasabha president Gajendra Singh Rajawat told PTI.

Earlier, a Meerut resident from the Kshatriya community had announced a bounty of Rs 5 crore on the heads of film director Bhansali and actor Deepika Padukone.

It is not clear what police action has been taken against all those issuing these threats.

In Rajasthan’s Udaipur, the district manager issued an order advising schools against performing on ‘Ghoomar’ at Republic Day functions.

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in several states anticipating violence ahead of the release of the movie. A hundred Karni Sena workers in Mumbai and 44 in Ahmedabad were arrested as a preventive measure.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter to slam the BJP for being unable to handle the situation.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief ministers in BJP-ruled states have maintained a stoic silence on the controversy, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said that she will be happy if Padmavaat is screened in her state.

Demonstrators shout slogans outside a multiplex during a protest against the release of ‘Padmaavat’ in Ahmedabad. Credit: Reuters

“It is a film. The name of the film has also been changed. The states where trouble broke out are ruled by BJP. Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have to maintain law and order. It is their duty. They can talk to them, they can convince them if anybody is around (to create trouble). I will be happy if the film ‘Padmaavat’ is screened here. Peace prevails in our state,” she told PTI.

The protesting Rajput and other groups have also demanded an apology from journalist-author Kota Neelima, who was expected to attend the upcoming Jaipur Literature Festival to talk about her new book Widows of Vidarbha, Making of Shadows, for her piece criticising the Karni Sena and highlighting crimes against women in Rajasthan.

Karni Sena Padmavati

The letter that the Karni Sena sent to the FirstIndia News channel of Rajasthan. Credit: Huffington Post India

“You can’t identify honour in a way that’s convenient to you. It can’t be subjective to the interpretations of a community. What I would consider honourable is a woman’s right to walk freely on the road. When she can stay in a marriage and not face domestic violence. These revolutionaries should take up those causes,” she told Huffington Post.

(With inputs from agencies)

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