Padmaavat row: Make fringe groups, such as Karni Sena, pay for destruction of public property

States must stop fringe groups like Karni Sena from spreading violence and breaking law and order

editorials Updated: Jan 22, 2018 18:42 IST
Hindustan Times
Members of Karni Sena set fire to a public transport to protest against the release of Padmaavat, Gandhinagar, January 20(PTI)

The Rajput Karni Sena is by now notorious for its mindless obstructionism and lawlessness in its protest against the release of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie Padmaavat. It is mindless because the protesters have refused to see reason in the fact that the movie has been seen and certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). It is lawless because of the sheer havoc it is wreaking over a swathe of North and West India. In the process, the once obscure organisation now regularly hits the headlines. Perhaps that was the objective all along.

The sena and similar fringe outfits believe that the movie hurts Rajput pride by showing Queen Padmini in poor light.

The protesters have refused to see reason, even after the Supreme Court stayed the decision of four states — Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — to ban the release of the movie. Reacting to the SC order passed on January 18, Lokendra Singh Kalvi, the sena’s chief, told news agency IANS: “We will not allow the film to be released at any cost. The Supreme Court has directed the state governments to ensure release of the film, but not to us (Karni Sena).” This is brazen disrespect to the top court and judiciary. The state governments concerned cannot sit idle in the face of threats of violence and mass suicide, as threatened by women in Rajput groups. Interestingly, though, two of the states have chosen to react by filing please before the Supreme Court, allowing them to ban the film.

In many of the protests across India, the state governments have done little to stop the vandalism of public and private property including buses, cinemas, and malls. On Saturday, four public transport corporation buses were torched in Gujarat. Reacting to the lawlessness a senior state minister said such protests were “natural”.

Groups that led such protests must be held responsible and made to pay for the damage caused. The Punjab and Haryana High Court’s observation in a similar case is noteworthy. In August 2017, when deadly violence broke out in Panchkula, Haryana, after the CBI court’s verdict against Ram Rahim Singh, the high court ordered that the money be recovered from the Dera Sacha Sauda, the organisation Singh was heading. In November, the court asked the Centre to form courts in every state to fix accountability for vandalism during protests and compensate the victims. This should also be followed in cases of violence relating to the protests against Padmaavat.

On Tuesday the apex court will hear Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh governments’ plea requesting a modification on its order. Irrespective of the outcome of that, the state governments where protests are taking place must safeguard the rights of the film exhibitors and uphold the freedom of the agitators to hold peaceful protests. However, there must be zero tolerance towards violence.

First Published: Jan 22, 2018 18:42 IST