Members of the Shree Rajput Karni Sena vandalised a cinema hall in north Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district on Thursday just hours after the Supreme Court lifted a ban imposed by four states on the release of Bollywood period drama Padmaavat.
Right-wing Hindu fringe groups across the country have threatened violent protests if the film is screened even as two of the four states said though they respect the top court order they will explore the option of filing an appeal.
The Sanjay Leela Bhansali 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 its release, saying it distorts history and presents the Rajput community in a poor light.
At Jyoti Cinema in Muzaffarpur’s Mithanpura, around 30-40 activists of the Shree Rajput Karni Sena gathered around 2pm and ransacked the theatre, which is slated to screen Padmaavat from January 25.
The protesters raised slogans against the film producer and warned the theatre owner against screening the movie.
“Yeh to sirf trailer hai, pura picture baki hai (This is just a trailer, wait for the full film),” they shouted while vandalising the ticket counters at the cinema hall.
Muzaffarpur town deputy SP Ashish Anand said they were scanning the CCTV footage to identify the protestors. “Those found guilty would not be spared,” he said.
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”.
News agency ANI reported that women from the Jauhar Kshatriya Manch in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh have threatened to perform jauhar on January 24.
“We have been protesting against the release of this film ever since we came to know of it. However, the government did not pay heed to our demands and decided to favour Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
Hence, we have decided that some women will perform jauhar on January 24. We are not afraid of death,” the head of the committee told ANI.