Rajasthan government, it seems, is highly tolerant. It clearly believes in the adage that it would brook all nonsense in the form of vandalism or hooliganism by a handful of people, who have become self appointed conscious keepers of the desert state’s cultural heritage.
Rajasthan minister Arun Chaturvedi’s statement that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial film, Padmavati about Rani Padmini of Chittorgarh, would not be allowed to be shot in the state and that the film would be screened before the Rajput Karni Sena, if at all it is released here, is surely going to embolden the moral policing activists further.
The minister met a delegation of the Shri Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena (SRRKS) and assured them that their objections would be invited before the film is released in Rajasthan.
This statement came on a day when some miscreants burnt down the sets and costumes of Padmavati in Kolhapur, Maharashtra.
SRRKS activists had earlier vandalized Bhansali’s sets on Jan 27 this year, objecting to some alleged romantic scenes between Delhi Sultan Allauddin Khilji and Rani Padmini of Chittorgarh. The filmmakers have, however, refuted such claims, saying no such scenes have been shot or are there in the movie.
The same Sena activists also took it upon themselves to break mirrors at the Chittorgarh Fort’s Padmini Palace on March 5. The tales about these mirrors, often toldand repeated by guides to tourists is a myth, say Sena activists and is highly misguiding. The mirrors is said to have been used by Khilji to see beautiful Padmini’s image. Sena activists claim there were no mirrors then and all these stories were concocted later.
Sena activists had warned the administration to remove the mirrors within a certain time frame, failing which they would destroy them. Which, they did blatantly. Since then, the government has not come out with a single statement on the vandalism or condemned it anywhere.
Nor have there been any tweets from the Chief Minister or other ministers on this issue.
Although the government is keen on more investments in the state, yet it is unperturbed over these incidents. These events are likely to dent its popularity as a shooting destination and perhaps deter more Bollywood or Hollywood directors from coming here, due to security concerns.
Instead, the government, it seems, is keen to give legal sanction to a fistful of people, who now believe they have a moral right to object to the film’s content in a violent way and also issue ultimatums to creative people and administration alike.
This government’s ‘no interference’ serves the groups’s purpose of furthering their interests in the community well. And that such actions have not yet found any reprimands from the government, speaks volumes about the ruling party’s placation policy.
Even the main Opposition, the Congress has largely refrained from coming out against the Sena’s vandalism and have clearly not taken sides yet.
The BJP government’s appeasement policy towards Rajputs is understandable with Assembly elections only a year away in 2018.
The Rajputs including Karni Sena activists’s huge rally in the first week of March in Jaipur, demanding reservation under the Economically Backward Classes category, have not augured well for the ruling BJP. Rajputs form about 7 to 10 % of the population in Rajasthan. Rajputs traditionally have been BJP supporters.
Even in an age, when development is supposed to be the only election plank, political parties in the state mainly the big two BJP and Congress are still imprisoned in the caste based political game. Caste politics is still dominant with parties believing that with people voting en bloc as a community, they stand to benefit by it.
On the other hand, there are some tweets against Bhansali, saying he is getting all these events stage managed by his PR team, to get the right buzz for his film.
While these allegations may or may not hold water, a responsible government should in no way, cow down to such fringe groups and their threats. Nipping them in the bud in a burgeoning democracy, is the way forward.
Till it is done, a dangerous deal is getting sealed in this desert state.