After the Punjab government banned controversial movie ‘Sadda Haq’ that reportedly glorifies the Khalistan separatist movement, neighbouring state Haryana and the UT of Chandigarh followed suit on the day of the movie’s scheduled release on Friday. This prompted an angry reaction from Kuljinder Sidhu, the producer and lead actor of the movie, who termed the ban “shameful” and a “black spot on democracy”.
Referring specifically to the Punjab government, he said, “Instigated by a few anti-social elements, this impotent government got an excuse to ban my movie. When the censor board has approved it, and even the SGPC (Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee) has given a nod, I don’t understand this ban. The CM and deputy CM should have been involved, but this is a decision taken by a few bureaucrats.” He said he had tried to meet CM Parkash Singh Badal as well as his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal, but wasn’t given an appointment.
Reiterating that the film had no provoking content and “actually gives out a positive message”, he also rued that his point of view had not been heard. He said that several “national and international” groups had asking him to “take action”, “but I have been requesting everyone to maintain peace”.
SUPPORT WITH CAUTION
The film fraternity had tempered support for Kuljinder’s right to freedom of expression. Veteran Punjabi filmmaker Manmohan Singh said, “I have not seen the film, but why the ban when the censor board has cleared it? Earlier, in Tamil Nadu, a similar thing happened with the movie Vishwaroopam. The government should also consider the potential loss to the producer before banning a film right on its release date.”
Writer-director Dheeraj Rattan said that, being a filmmaker himself, he sympathised with Sidhu, “However, since it is the responsibility of the government to maintain peace and harmony, if it feels that some content can harm peace it has the right to object.
SGPC cagey now
The ban has pushed the SGPC on the backfoot, as it had backed the movie before the censor board. Incidentally, the SGPC is ruled by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which also helms the state government in alliance with the BJP. On Thursday, SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar insisted that the government had taken the decision “from the law and order perspective”.
When reminded that he had appointed a five-member panel that saw the film before backing it before the censor board, Makkar argued that he himself had not seen it. But SGPC member Rajinder Singh Mehta, who was one of the members of that panel, told HT, “We indeed found nothing provocative in the film. It depicts events as they happened in Punjab during the militancy time. Obviously, the state government had a different view and probably took the decision from the law and order angle after some organisations raised objections.”
However, radical group Dal Khalsa condemned the ban on what it termed “frivolous grounds”.