A splinter group of the Karni Sena on Saturday suspended its national vice president for announcing “withdrawal” of an agitiaion against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnus opus Padmaavat, indicating deep divisions among the Rajput community over the controversial film.
There are at least eight groups which claim to be the real Karni Sena and at least two of them are spearheading violent protests against the Deepika Padukone film which they allege distorts history and portrays queen Padmini in poor light.
On Friday, the Shri Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena’s Maharashtra unit said it was withdrawing the protests after some members of the outfit saw the film and found nothing objectionable in it.
The outfit’s national president Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi told reporters that “whoever went to watch the film yesterday did so in their personal capacity” and that the agitation will continue.
“We will continue to oppose the film and appeal to everyone not to give credence to rumours,” he said.
Gogamedi was part of Lokendra Singh Kalvi’s Shri Rajput Karni Sena, which is spearheading the protests against Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film, but later formed his own Karni Sena.
The film, released on January 25, has not been screened in Rajasthan.
The Maharashtra unit had claimed that its member watched the movie on instruction from Gogamedi.
“The movie glorifies the valour and sacrifice of Rajput and every Rajput will feel proud after watching the film,” the outfit’s Mumbai leader Yogendra Singh Katar said in a statement before he was suspended.
Padmini is considered by Rajputs as a symbol of the community’s tradition of putting honour above everything else. She is said to have committed jauhar, the medieval practice in which female royals walked into funeral fires to embrace death over the dishonour of being taken captive, after Allauddin Khilji, the Delhi emperor, captures Mewar’s capital Chittorgarh.
A disclaimer at the beginning of the movie says Padmaavat is based on a fictional character portrayed in a 16th-century poem by a Sufi poet.
Kalvi also reiterated that they will continue to oppose the film and said eight bodies have sprouted in name the Karni Sena in recent years creating confusion over which group represented Rajputs.
“There are people giving statements on behalf of Karni Sena, but there is only one Karni Sena and our stand is clear that Padmaavat should not have been released,” he said. Gogamedi also hinted at a reconciliation with the Bharatiya Janata Party after its loss in the recent Rajasthan by-polls.
“The organisation’s opposition to BJP was till the recent bye-election,” Gogamedi said, who barely a week ago had slammed the Central government for not banning the movie.
On Saturday, the Karni Sena leader’s tone and tenor towards the ruling party saw a marked shift. “The BJP’s door is still open for all the organisations of us Rajputs,” Gogamedi said. He added that that BJP was their home.
“If the party fulfills all our demands, then all the (Rajput) organisations can come together and meet (to decide) to return home ... but not now,” said the Karni Sena leader.