The Indian Republic is world’s largest and most diverse, plural democracy and since 1947, India has been a torch-bearer of freedom of speech and freedom of expression (if we strictly go by our constitution) and in the 21st century we all Indians truly believe that it is our time to shine and become a global player. Sounds very preachy and righteous, isn’t it? But, the sad reality is that our great land is going through a grave crisis where the mob will decide what to eat, what to wear, whom to marry and what to watch?
This mob mentality and hooliganism comes on the back of controversies faced by Bollywood’s ace director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus ‘Padmaavat’ (earlier Padmavati). The controversy started long back when Bhansali was making the movie and was roughed up, beaten up, abused by the self-proclaimed fringe group and messiah of Rajput community Karni Sena and its various outfits. Karni Sena thinks that SLB has tarnished Rajput pride and insulted their ancestors without even watching the film and are playing a very dangerous game of inciting people in the name of religion and their beliefs.
Padmavati was supposed to release on December 1, 2017, but faced protests and threats and CBFC (censor board) cowed down, formed a committee and gave into the fringe elements by changing the name and also imposed modifications before giving the certificate. India’s political class was very mute and gave into the demands of Karni Sena and the majority of states (high proportion of Rajput community) decided to ban the film and made Karni Sena part of a mainstream. The so-called Karni Sena has decided to take law into their own hands and have been burning vehicles, torching buses, breaking multiplexes in the name of protest and state governments (Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana) have been witnessing the carnage silently and wants Bhansali to not release the film (classic case of shooting the messenger, isn’t it?).
What could our helpless and poor state governments do? It is not their fault because the mighty state police can’t control hundreds of protesters who are creating ruckus because these anti-social elements are the vote banks of this political parties. Also, the elections are due in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh later in the year, so you can understand their helplessness in booking the mob. Karni Sena has the full backing of police and state to do their anarchy because it is their freedom of expression and they are our moral custodians. While our beloved Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the global platform (World Economic Forum, Davos) talks about good terrorist and bad terrorist and says that terror is evil, many BJP ruled chief ministers are backing Karni Sena and going by their logic Karni Sena are good terrorists who are doing their bit for the society.
Have we ever wondered why we can’t win Oscars? The basic reason is that we don’t have absolute freedom and independence to make the film that questions our politics and system and because India is such a vast country that someone will get offended by any reason and the government will always give protection to the fringe and our creative liberty doesn’t mean anything because cinematic expression can’t translate into votes.
Now, the time has come for every citizen to stand up for its rights and tell Karni Sena that enough is enough and some few goons cannot dictate our lives and states have to grow a spine to take on these lumpen elements. Karni Sena is slowly becoming part of the mainstream and if that happens then we the people will be their slaves for the rest of our lives.