The reluctance of the BJP ruled states to take action against the miniscule minority of Rajput groups, in spite of the verdict of the Supreme Court against the ban on the movie, Padmaavat, exposes their weakness and appeasement of groups with money and muscle power. The BJP governments of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh had taken recourse to the Supreme Court a second time for allowing them to stop the film's screening if it caused law and order problems, given the violent protests by Rajput groups including the Karni Sena. “ States must obey orders to screen Padmaavat ”, the Supreme Court said on Jan 23, underscoring its earlier ruling and rejecting requests by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to block the film over law and order trouble. "It's an order, better abide by it. You (states) can advise people not to watch the movie," the judges said. "People can't come and say law and order problems, ban the movie. Let us not come to a state where the exhibition of a movie, despite certified by the censor board, is crippled," Chief Justice Dipak Mishra reprimanded the states.
The BJP ruled states are responsible for putting themselves into an embarrassing situation. When the trailer of the movie was shown the politically and economically powerful Rajput groups protested mainly in the BJP ruled North Indian states. Many protesters did not even know anything about the movie. In order to please the powerful groups, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the BJP governments supported the protesting fringe groups and declared their intention to ban the movie even before its release. BJP’s state chief media coordinator of Haryana offered a bounty of rupees ten crores on actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Threats of attacking and killing the actors and the director and attacking movie houses were made by the BJP leaders. Rajasthan and Gujarat first banned the release of the movie and Madhya Pradesh followed Gujarat. Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh joined the ranks later.
Recently, in Madhya Pradesh, the campus of a private school in Ratlam was vandalized, and its students and teachers attacked by the members of the Rajput Karni Sena because the students were performing the “Ghoomar” song from the film. Madhya Pradesh home minister, Bhupendra Singh, publically declared, “MP government banned Padmaavat. People shouldn't even play songs from it. If someone plays a banned song, it must be reported to police and not take matter in your own hands. Action will be taken against culprits.” The primary responsibility of a government is to safeguard the life and property of its citizens. As the editorial of ‘The Times of India’ on Jan 18 stated, “The contract between citizen and state entrusts the latter with maintaining law and order, as a priority that comes before all else. Enforcing the law and dealing with those who threaten to disrupt the peace is non-negotiable”.
If a government is not able to maintain law and order and is incapable of dealing with hooligans, who threaten to take law into their hands and indulge in violence, that government has no right to continue. The BJP Chief Ministers, who decided to ban the movie Padmaavati/Padmaavat, fearing the violence by fringe groups of Rajputs, have proved to be without backbone. It is nothing but their shameless surrender to hooliganism. The BJP used to accuse the Congress party of appeasing the Muslims. The banning of a movie that has been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification because of the pressure from the fringe Rajput groups is the worst kind of appeasement by the BJP.
The central government under the leadership Narendra Modi cannot wash its hands, saying that law and order is a subject of the state governments. Our eloquent PM appears to have taken a vow of silence. The Central Board of Film Certification is the authorized body to issue certificate to a movie and that body has given its clearance after the producer made the changes proposed by the former. The Supreme Court set aside the ban of the movie and reiterated that freedom of expression is a fundamental right of a citizen and it should be protected. The BJP top leadership and the PM should have advised the Chief Ministers to comply with the decision of the Supreme Court and asked them to ensure the safety and security of the theatres screening the movie. An instruction by the PM to the BJP Chief Ministers to implement the Supreme Court’s decision would have definitely softened the stand of the threatening fringe groups. The Prime Minister who had promised sab ka saath sabka vikas seems to have forgotten it when the question of the freedom of expression of the citizens is questioned by the fringe groups supporting the BJP.
The BJP ruled state governments have given a free hand to Gaurakshaks to indulge in violence against the innocent Muslims under the pretext of cow protection. According to Indiaspend 25 persons were killed and 60 got injured in cow related attacks from 2010 to 2017 and as many as 97% of these attacks took place since PM Modi came to power. Many investigations have proved that these attacks took place either because of the connivance or the laxity of the administration. The Sangh Parivar groups attacked a group seminarians and priests in Satna, Madhya Pradesh, for singing carol songs on the eve of the Christmas 2017 and the police instead of taking action on the law breakers kept the seminarians and priests in the police station the whole night in the biting cold. The police also arrested one of the priests, charging him with “forced conversions”. Hindu Jagran Manch threatened the managements of Christian schools with violent consequences in Aligarh and other parts of UP if they celebrated Christmas with the students in their schools.
A mob of ABVP activists, the youth wing of BJP, tried forcefully to enter St. Mary’s College Vidhisha in Madhya Pradesh on 4th January 2018 for performing aarati to Bharat Mata. They had made an attempt on 30th December 2017 to perform aarati, but because of the police intervention they could not do it. Fortunately on both occasions police were helpful in thwarting the attempts of the ABVP. But the college management had to go through an ordeal and the Christian community is living in fear because of the constant threats by the Sangh Parivar outfits. The BJP is playing a double game by allowing its militant outfits to threaten the Christian institutions with violence and at the same time sending police to protect the institutions. The Christian community and its leaders should be intelligent enough to understand the games played by the Sangh Parivar to hoodwink them.
According to an article published in mattersindia.com on Jan 24, India is becoming increasingly unsafe for its Muslim and Christian minorities. The World Watch List 2017 ranked India as the 15th most dangerous place to practise one’s minority faith, a sharp fall from the 31st place four years earlier. As reported in the article United Christian Forum has recorded 216 attacks on Christian institutions in 2017, but the police have registered complaints in less than a quarter of the cases; the attackers have been arrested in even fewer.
On Jan 9, CNN News 18 reported from Bangalore a threat given by the Bajrang Dal. In a WhatsApp message, Bajrang Dal, Mudigere unit, warned that whoever roams around with non-Hindu boys would be made to pay a heavy price, as it is the duty of Bajrang Dal to save Hinduism. The Sangh Parivar outfits have taken on themselves the task of moral policing.
It is evident that the increase in the violence against the minorities and those who are critical against the Sangh Parivar and the government is due to the implicit support by the BJP governments both at the centre and the states. Those who indulge in violence are the members of the organizations floated by RSS, and BJP is the political wing of RSS. If the BJP governments are not lenient to these groups they would not have flexed their muscles as they do now. The violence by the fringe groups of rajputs in the name of Padmaavat movie is nothing but the result of the leniency and sympathy of the BJP governments. It is surprising to hear from Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Chief Minister of MP that his government banned the movie, Padmaavat in order to respect the public sentiment. The problem with the BJP governments is that they interpret the sentiment of any group that supports them as public sentiment. Scientific temper is fast disappearing from the rulers of India and they are guided by sentiments and superstitions.
The BJP Chief Ministers like Shivraj Singh Chouhan have to learn the basics of state craft. The governments cannot be run in accordance with the sentiments of particular groups. In a democracy the government has to function in accordance with rules laid down in the constitution of the country. The Supreme Court has told the BJP ruled states unambiguously what they have to do in relation to screening the movie, Padmaavat. Not obeying the Supreme Court is nothing but a betrayal of the people of India and an antinational activity.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 29th January 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 05)