Ten days into the release of Padmaavat, one of the outfits spearheading the protests against the film, Shri Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena (SRRKS), struggled to maintain a united front following the release of a letter attributed to its Maharashtra unit saying it felt “proud” watching it. While the protests against the film by Rajput outfits, including the SRRKS, centre on the premise that it violates Rajput honour, the letter said the film actually valorizes them.
The SRRKS held a press conference in Jaipur disowning the letter, that also promised help with Padmaavat’s release nationwide, but the outfit’s national vice-president and Rajasthan head Yogendra Singh Katar, in whose name the note dated February 2 was issued, remained unreachable, with his phone switched off.
The Shri Rajput Karni Sena (SRKS), which is also leading the anti-Padmaavat protests, took a swipe at the SRRKS, saying that “fake Karni Senas” are spreading the “fake news” that the agitation has been withdrawn. “There are other duplicate outfits that are trying to imitate the Karni Sena. This is similar to the phenomenon that when one product does well in the market, other pirated versions of it are released,” SRKS state president Mahipal Singh Makrana said. Its chief Lokendra Singh Kalvi said the ‘janta curfew’ on the film called by the SRKS would continue.
The letter, on the letterhead of SRRSK-Maharashtra, and addressed to ‘Viacom 18 / Bhansali Productions’, said, “Upon instructions from our national president Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi, we saw the movie Padmaavat in Mumbai. We feel proud to say that Rajput courage and sacrifice (have) been portrayed beautifully in the movie. The movie is dedicated to the greatness of Rani Padmavati.”
It added, “There is no scene between Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji in the movie and there is no such thing in the movie which hurts Rajput history or emotions. We are thoroughly satisfied with the movie. Hence, we withdraw our campaign and assure you to assist you and the film distributors in screening the movie in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and all cinema halls of the country.”
As the letter went viral, SRRKS national president Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi called a press conference in Jaipur on Saturday to declare that the outfit was not withdrawing its protest against the Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. “We haven’t been able to establish the veracity of the signatures as yet. We will investigate its contents and the signatures on the letter within a day or two. However, whether fake or not, those whose signatures are on the letter stand expelled… Even if this is original, this is their personal opinion, and not of the SRRKS… If anyone has indeed signed the letter, they are automatically expelled from our outfit.”
About why they hadn’t been able to establish the veracity of the letter, Gogamedi said, “Our Mumbai president is Madan Singh, whose wife passed away last night, so we haven’t been able to speak with him.”
The letterhead, however, identifies Takhat Singh Taliyana as the SRRKS Maharashtra president. Taliyana told The Sunday Express the letterhead was old since he had resigned seven-eight months ago. “We are investigating if the signature on the letter is actually vice-president Yogendra Katar’s. I believe they have been forged,” he said.
Apart from Katar, the letter also had signatures of one Jeevansingh, listed as Maharashtra secretary of the SRRKS, and an illegible signature. Jeevansingh did not respond to calls.
SRRKS chief Gogamedi claimed an attempt to “mislead” youth. “I would appeal to the youths of our community that attempts are being made to mislead you. Don’t be misled and hold your ground. Attempts are being made to spread false information.”
He added that they had called an “emergency meeting” on February 6 to “take some decisions”. “Being the national president of the Shri Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena, I say that our protest against the movie continues.”
Hitting back at the SRKS for its swipe, Gogamedi said, “Many people say that the SRRKS is a ‘fake’ outfit. But let me tell you, it is a registered organisation. We can share our registration anytime. Please ask for registration from those calling us fake… As for screening of the film, neither the SRRKS or the SRKS or any other outfit can screen the film.”
(with inputs from ENS, Mumbai)