Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's film MSG-2: The Messenger on Saturday faced heavy protests in Jharkhand and Chattisgarh over "objectionable" comments against tribals, while in Punjab his followers held demonstrations alleging an unofficial ban on its screening.
Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das ordered a ban on screening of the film across the state saying he found the movie contained derogatory remarks against tribal people undermining their dignity.
"No one could be allowed to play with the sentiments of the tribals," said Das.
The Jharkhand high court had on Friday issued notices to Hakikat Entertainment, maker of the film 'MSG-2: The Messenger', the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), the State Tribal Advisory Council and others in response to a PIL seeking a ban on screening of the movie.
Soon after the release of a MSG2 trailer in Jharkhand, where tribals constitute 26.3% of the total population, various tribal groups had started protesting.
They raised objection to a promo where the protagonist Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is seen bashing hundreds of adivasis (tribal) and saying, "Na toh ye log insaan hai na jaanwar, ye shaitan hain shaitan (These people are neither humans nor animals but devils). I have come to change the devils into humans. And my life is committed to it."
However, despite the ban and protests, the movie was screened at more than four theatres in the state including one in state capital Ranchi.
Officials at Miniplex Ranchi said they had no information about the ban till 2pm.
"We have screened one show of the movie from 12.15pm and seat occupancy was average. If any such order comes, we will stop exhibiting it immediately," said a Miniplex theatre official on the condition of anonymity.
Several tribal organisations on Saturday protested the screening of the movie in different parts of the state as well as the country.
"The tribal have a big role in protecting the environment as they are the worshipers of nature. The movie has hurt the sentiments of more than 11 crore tribal population in the country," Adivasi Jan Parishad (AJP) general secretary Prem Sahi Munda said.
The AJP members burnt an effigy of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh at Ranchi's Albert Ekka Chowk.
"Our demand is to restrict the screening of the movie from the cinema halls of across the country," he said.
Protests in Chhattisgarh
In Chhattisgarh too, tribals are vociferously demanding a ban on the screening of the movie and initiation of legal action against it for "deeply" hurting the dignity of the adivasis, who constitute around 32% of the total population.
The movie has "offended" the tribals who took out rallies, staged demonstrations, burnt the effigies of the lead character and appealed all multiplexes not to screen the film.
Theatres in the state capital have not screened the movie.
"The tribal community felt terribly offended. We demand to stop screening of the film. If no appropriate action taken against the movie and its producer, the tribals will be forced to resort to aggressive demonstration beyond Chhattisgarh," said SR Netam, president of a tribal body Sarva Adivasi Samaj, which has members in different states.
The Chhattisgarh State Scheduled Tribes Commission has questioned the "approval" given by the Central Board of Film Certification.
"How could any movie that demean tribal community be allowed to be released by the Censor Board? Where does the film's morality stand? This movie must be immediately banned and legal action should be taken against it," chairperson of the commission, Devlal Dugga, told Hindustan Times.
The state commission has also lodged a complaint with the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) and the chief secretaries of Chhattisgarh and Haryana for “insulting” tribals and demanded a ban and strong action.
"On Sunday the tribal leaders will hold a meeting to decide on the future course of action against the film. The option to file a petition in the high court is being deliberated," said Dugga.
Punjab cinemas skip film
Protests erupted in parts of Punjab cinemas abstained from screening the controversial film on the second day of its release.
The godman’s followers have accused the Punjab government of playing a “double game”, saying while no official ban was imposed on the film in the state, the district administrations had been asked to press cinema owners not to screen it.
A large number of protesters also held a protest demonstration and blocked traffic on the Moga-Barnala road in Moga district. Protesters also blocked a railway track in the district’s Bhugipura village.
Meanwhile, at least 13 trains, including eight between Ludhiana and Ferozepur have been cancelled due to the protests in Moga and Amritsar, affecting thousands of travellers.