The Punjab government on Saturday decided to “suspend screening” of the MSG: Messenger of God, a controversial film that features Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the self-styled spiritual master and chief of Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda.
The “breach of peace and threat to social harmony” were cited as one of the core reasons to stop the screening of the movie in the border state.
The formal decision was taken by chief minister Parkash Singh Badal himself after the proposal against screening of the film was mooted by the state home affairs department, government sources said.
The state government issued a five-page notification and suspended the screening under Punjab Cinema Act 1952, directing the deputy commissioners and senior superintendents of police of the districts to ensure the movie is not screened across the state.
In early 2013, the state government had banned a Punjabi film ‘Sadda Haq’ which ostensibly had glorified the Khalistan movement and its leaders to maintain peace and harmony.
“The Punjab government on Saturday decided to stop with immediate effect the screening of the film “MSG” in Punjab in view of reports of tensions surrounding its release in some other parts of the country,” a government spokesperson said, adding this order will apply to all forms--public as well as private--of exhibition and viewing of this film in the state, including in the cinema houses.
The government stated that this decision has been taken in the “larger and crucial interest of preserving peace and social harmony” in the state and “safeguarding the age-old emotional bonds” among people professing different faiths in the state.
“The screening of the film,” the Badal government said, “is likely to evoke strong emotional reactions leading to public display of conflicting emotions.”
The government further stated that the central agencies had issued an advisory to take necessary steps to “prevent any breach of peace/untoward incident/adverse fall out and other law and order problem” due to the release of the film MSG.
Maintaining that the government cannot allow the chain of actions and reactions to pose a threat to peace and social harmony of the state, the state government said it was bounded by a sacred duty to pre-empt and prevent any such eventuality and to ensure that the “hard earned atmosphere of peace and social harmony in the state is preserved at all costs.”
The Badal government maintained that its decision comes in the wake of reports of strong reactions and protests over the promotional trailer of the movie evoked in several parts of the country.