The protests and agitation against the release of the film Padmavati took an ugly turn on Friday, 24 November, when the body of a 40-year-old man was found hanging from the walls of the Nahargarh fort in Jaipur, accompanied by a threatening note on the walls etched out in charcoal. The body was later identified as Chetan Saini, a jeweler on the outskirts of Jaipur.
According to Jaipur Police, the graffiti on the walls read, “Padmavati ka virodh karne walon, hum kille par sirf putle nahi latkate… hum mein hai dum (Those opposing Padmavati, we don’t just hang effigies from forts… we have courage).”
On the same day, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee voiced her support for the film and it’s director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, as well as it’s leading cast of Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor.
In response to her announcement that she would ‘welcome’ the director and his team to the state, BJP leader Suraj Pal Amu threatened Banerjee today, 25 November, invoking the legend of Lord Lakshman of Ramayana severing Surpanakha’s nose. According to the Ramayana, Surpanakha was the sister of Ravana and had her nose chopped off by Lakshman for trying to kill Sita.
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“I heard Mamata Banerjee has welcomed Sanjay Leela Bhansali to Kolkata. I want to tell her that this is the land of Lord Rama’s brother, Lakshman. Do I need to mention what Lakshman did to Surpanakha?” Amu said while addressing a rally of supporters.
Suraj Pal Amu has, over the last few weeks, publicly offered multiple bounties of tens of crores for the beheading of Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Deepika Padukone. No complaint has as yet been registered against him, and other members of BJP have been largely inactive in stopping him or controlling the controversy.
Over the past few weeks there have been multiple incidents of threats issued to the director and cast of the film but this has been the most violent so far. Protests are being staged despite repeated dismissals of petitions by the Supreme Court and various High Courts calling for a ban on the release of the film.
Petitions in Supreme Court & High Courts Against Padmavati
A bench of the Delhi High Court comprising Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar on Friday, 24 November, dismissed a plea seeking to set up a committee before the release of the film Padmavati to check whether there was any distortion of history.
The committee was to be chaired by a retired HC judge and comprise members of the censor board, a social activist and three history experts from any university. The bench termed the petition “hopeless” and “misconceived” saying that these kinds of actions “are encouraging the people who are agitating.”
The judgement was consistent with the Supreme Court order passed earlier this month, directing the petitioners to approach the Central Board of Film Certification.
On 16 November, a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had said that the Supreme Court cannot stop a statutory body like the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) from doing its duty of certifying a film by “prematurely” ordering a stay on its release.
The Supreme Court had dismissed the petition seeking to stay the release of the controversial movie Padmavati and initiate criminal prosecution against its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
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Amongst a series of petitions being filed all around the country, the Gujarat High Court had also refused to entertain a similar petition before it, demanding a stay on the release of the film on the grounds of distortion of historical facts and hurting of sentiments of a community by doing so.
The division bench observed that the subject of the petition was within the purview of CBFC that will examine the film when an application is made before it. Despite these rulings of the Courts, leading political parties in various states have already declared bans on the release of the film.
States Banning Release Of Padmavati
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Patil had announced at a rally that Padmavati will not release in his state. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also told media that films that distort history will not be allowed to release.
The release of the movie was also banned in the state of Gujarat citing law and order issues as the assembly elections are scheduled in the state.
Similar reasons were cited by the Uttar Pradesh Home Department, which functions under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The Municipal elections are scheduled on November 22, 26 and 29, followed by the results on 1 December in Uttar Pradesh.
Barawafat festival, when Muslim groups are actively involved in taking out processions, is also scheduled on 2 December. According to the UP Home Department, the resources to maintain the law and order situation will not be available in case of release of the film which has already witnessed huge protests.
The UP State Government also submitted to the Censor Board that threats have also been issued to the cinemas by certain groups to indulge in vandalism and arson if the film is screened.
Meanwhile, fringe political party Karni Sena has threatened to burn down a theatre in the UK if the Padmavati film is screened.
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This is an ongoing story.
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