It is reprehensible how ridiculous some campaigns run by fringe groups can get and how State governments can whip up passions on trivial issues to harness vote banks. The controversy generated on the yet-to-be-released film ‘Padmavati’ by Karni Sena and the shocking fallout from it in the shape of putting a price on the film director’s head and threatening to chop off the nose of a leading star of Hindi films Deepika Padukone a la Surupnakha in Hindu mythology should have been nipped in the bud through firm state action. Instead, the flames have been fanned to such an extent by mischief mongers that the movement for banning the film has spread to many states and is jeopardizing lives and property on a major scale.
The social media which relishes jumping into controversies has plunged headlong into it and the sensation-mongering electronic media has found it expedient to fan the flames. It is indeed a sad spectacle of how democracy has been reduced to a spectacle and how a mockery is being made of cultural freedom and freedom of expression. It would be foolhardy to dismiss the role of the film’s maker, Sanjay Leela Bhansali as inconsequential and to defend him blindly. Bhansali has a penchant for controversies and perhaps deliberately fuels them to generate business. Deepika Padukone, too, has been provocative. Clearly, this is not the first such case of Bhansali’s film ending up in creating a mess. But more than him, it is the fringe parties that need to be hauled up nice and proper. While a high-powered jury needs to be set up to examine the merits of the stand of critics of the film, those making irresponsible and incendiary statements and thereby endangering public order ought to be put behind bars.
That a section of the ruling party at the Centre and in some states is part of the problem should not make the authorities buckle under pressure. The law must take its course and all those who come in the way of peace and tranquillity must be brought to book to set the right example for people at large. It is time we give democracy a meaning that is within reasonable bounds and is not a degenerated form that should more legitimately be called mobocracy. If today, the situation on the ‘Padmavati’ violence front is so bad, it is because some politicians have been fishing in troubled waters. Neither UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath nor his counterparts in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Haryana have covered themselves with glory by making statements which should best have been avoided. The BJP high command and the Centre should have stepped in to provide a sobering influence, but their own conduct is far from satisfactory. It is indeed time to introspect and to take remedial action to prevent any further escalation.