A Punjabi film glorifying the Khalistan movement and its leaders Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, Balbir Singh Rajoana and Jagtar Singh Hawara is set to release Friday with the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal overturning a censor board decision to ban it.
The board had refused certification to Sadda Haq (My Right) after its producer Kuljinder Sidhu - who also plays the film's lead, a hockey player-turned-militant - rejected its suggestion that he delete 20 scenes that apparently sympathise with the movement in the 1980s.
A song in the film, Baghi (rebel), sung by UK-based Punjabi singer Jazzy B, describes the three militant leaders as descendants of 10th Sikh guru Gobind Singh due to their valour and rebellious nature. It praises them for fighting for the cause of Sikhism.
Another song, Dabb de killi (pull the trigger), is also believed to be provocative. The songs have gone viral on YouTube.
Sindhu - whose brother Goldie joined the militant ranks and was gunned down by security forces in 1992 - said there was nothing wrong in a movie projecting the view point of a militant when films on criminals, such as Bandit Queen and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, were allowed.
"From what I have observed, by and large the reason (for militancy) was that people felt injustice was being done to Punjab by the central governments… I wanted to depict how politicians exploited the situation, gave issues a communal colour and used the policy of divide and rule between communities," Sidhu said.
The censor board felt the film's strong pro-Khalistan sentiment could create law and order problems in Punjab.
"The movie has huge anti-India sentiment and we wanted some scenes deleted," a board member said.
Sikh religious organizations, including the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee, however, said there wasn't anything in the movie that would create friction in society. The Shiromani Akali Dal-led Punjab government has also backed Sadda Haq.
After Sidhu approached the tribunal, it allowed the movie to be screened with minor modifications.
Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari, an MP from Punjab, refused to get drawn into the controversy, saying "the government does not play big brother and does not interfere with statutory processes" laid down in the Cinematograph Act.
"If certain sensitivities are involved, it is for the state government to take cognizance and act accordingly," he said.
Inputs from Archana Matharu, HTC Amritsar