Amid reports that Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s movie ‘MSG: The Messenger of God’ had got the nod from an appellate tribunal and would finally be released on January 23, Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chairperson Leela Samson said she had resigned, on Thursday.
Asked if she was aware of media reports that the nod had been given to the film, which was to originally release on January 16, Samson said, “I hear so. Nothing is in writing yet. Yet, it is a mockery of the CBFC. My resignation is final; I have informed the (information and broadcasting) secretary.”
Dera spokesman Aditya Insan said, “The film has got the nod, but we will get the certificate on Friday (January 16) and won’t like to release it at such short notice. That will take at least a week.”
The movie, said to be against the drug menace and other social evils, was with the FCAT upon referral by the CBFC, which had objected to the dera head’s alleged portrayal of himself as god.
There was no official word to HT from censor authorities on the FCAT clearance. Shravan Kumar, who holds charge as CBFC’s chief executive officer, went incommunicado after initially saying he was not sure how long the tribunal would take. There are law and order concerns as the dera head has been a contentious figure among radical Sikhs over his manner of propagation, as manifested in clashes over the years and in recent violence over the movie. The Akal Takht, Sikhism’s highest temporal body, is among organisations that have sought a ban on the movie. Flag marches by the police and paramilitary forces were held on Thursday in Bathinda and surrounding areas that have a large dera following.
The dera had openly supported the Centre’s ruling party and eventual winner BJP in the recent Haryana assembly polls. As such, the FCAT’s reported nod came even as sources familiar with the procedure had told HT earlier that the tribunal decision wasn’t likely soon. “It is a quasi-judicial process that takes at least two weeks,” a former secretary of the tribunal had said. The movie was with the FCAT for less than a week, and the dera head had blamed the “drug mafia” for stalling the release.
As for Samson, asked why she has decided to quit, she did not specifically refer to the reported clearance to the film but said, “Recent cases of interference in the working of the CBFC by the ministry, through an ‘additional charge’ CEO, and corrupt panel members has caused a degradation of values that the board members and chairperson stood for.”
She said she had was “having to manage an organisation whose board has not met for over nine months as the ministry had no funds to permit the meeting of members”.
Further, she said the terms of all members and chairperson of the board were over, but, since the new government failed to appoint replacements, some were given extension.
(Inputs from Bathinda)