The Padmaavat saga and the making of an impatient nation | columns | Hindustan Times
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The Padmaavat saga and the making of an impatient nation

In the name of law and order, certain chief ministers banned the film without even watching it

columns Updated: Jan 29, 2018 07:45 IST
People protest outside a cinema hall against the release of  Padmaavat in Mathura
People protest outside a cinema hall against the release of Padmaavat in Mathura(PTI)

Jayanti Ranganathan, our senior colleague in Hindustan, was talking animatedly over the phone: “I’ve just returned from a screening of Padmaavat. There’s nothing in the film that is worth opposing.” Before her, after watching the film, two news channel editors had said the same. An agonising question came to my mind: Is this the kind of nation we want to build — where large-scale agitations are launched just on the basis of rumours?

Through the Padmaavat saga, I want to discuss issues that are proving to be lethal for our democracy. It is often said that politicians think only about elections. The establishments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were in a quandary because they have to cross the electoral whirlpool at the end of this year. Controversies such as these prove handy to overcome anti-incumbency. It is possible that the politicos in Jaipur and Bhopal could have been thinking on these lines. But why did the chief ministers of Haryana and Gujarat impose a ban on the film without even watching it?

If they so desired, they could have chosen the path of consensus the way Yogi Adityanath did. The Uttar Pradesh chief minister had asked protesters to first watch the film and then decide. A consensus is the best way to function in a democracy but apart from Yogi, everybody ignored it. Clearly, our politicians prefer to take short-cuts than exercise their intellect. They do this even if they have to fall back on deceit and make-believe.

The bitter truth is that our politicians have time and again poked fun at democratic values. They’ve twisted rules, regulations and traditions for selfish gains in such a way that people in the country’s power corridors believed that the chief minister was the king of his state. He could behave in the manner he pleased.

The Padmaavat case is another illustration of this. Ignoring the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification, which has been set up keeping in mind the fundamentals of the Constitution, these chief ministers banned the film without even watching it. The excuse was maintenance of law and order. Experts say that this excuse was invented by Englishmen to oppress Indians. Instead of getting rid of it after independence, we’ve further strengthened it. Isn’t this a shameful turn of events? Doesn’t it pave the way for the common man to lose faith in the system?

Another pressing question is this: until when will the inefficiency of politicians keep burdening our courts? Putting an excessive burden on the judiciary has led to a situation where this most important pillar of democracy has itself come under scrutiny? Why is this happening and how can we prevent this? I can say with a degree of conviction that in the age of social media, if a few intellectuals raise their voice, it will have the desired impact. But they’ve themselves got trapped in a futile debate. It is a result of the apathy of these intellectuals that our democracy hasn’t progressed as much on the path to social welfare as it deserved. Thanks to irresponsible politicians and lethargic intellectuals, the general public has begun to lose confidence in our institutions. An international survey found that this loss of faith is a tendency on the rise among the citizens of India.

Unfortunately, this malaise is spreading across the world. This is strengthening the hands of anarchists and supporters of terrorism. American politicians had breathed a sigh of relief after Osama bin Laden was killed. They had managed to take out the chief of the world’s biggest organised terror organisation. At that time, they had claimed that nobody would be allowed to become as strong as Osama, but even before five years could lapse, we saw the emergence of a monstrous organisation like the Islamic State.

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Osama had spent a large part of his life hiding in exile. Unlike him, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of Daesh even annexed a large area and anointed himself its Khalifa. His popularity soared so much that young men and women from across the world began to visit Syria. Recently the news came that a man from Kerala had been killed there. Seeing this as the death of another terrorist will be foolish. We shouldn’t forget that Abdul Manaf was an Indian. He was born in independent India and was educated here. His family and nation didn’t envisage this kind of a death for him.

When there is a loss of trust, various kinds of agitations and aberrations crop up in different parts of the country. Until when will our politicians keep ignoring this fact and fanning fires of hatred? Are we building a dissatisfied, unintelligent and impatient nation?

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief Hindustan

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