Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie Padmaavat, which has courted controversy and led to protests from the Rajput community, was released in theatres on Thursday. Earlier this week, the Supreme Court rejected petitions from the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh government which sought a ban on the film.
However, violent protests continued to take place in several states including Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The movie, which was initially slated to release on December 1, could not make it to the theatres in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Goa on Thursday as the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) announced that its members would not screen Padmaavat.
On Thursday, the screening of the film in some halls, such as in Noida and Pune, remained relatively peaceful, a few other decided to cancel shows or stuck to their decision not to screen the movie. Protests by the Karni Sena and other fringe groups continued in several parts of the country today, including in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
A day after protesters attacked a school bus ferrying students in Gurgaon, the Haryana police has arrested 18 people. Some schools in Gurgaon remained closed today as a precautionary measure. A video, which went viral on Wednesday, showed students and staff cowering down on the floor of the bus, the windows of which were shattered and cries of children heard in the background. The agitators had torched a Haryana Roadways bus before attacking the school bus.
Haryana ministers, who had vocally protested the movie’s release, remained silent on the issue, a day before its release. The only voice heard was of the Health Minister Anil Vij who said the Supreme Court’s order was “supreme’ and the government would provide security to cinemas screening the film.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had previously assured security and said, “The Supreme Court’s order must be followed… well and good if some theatre owners do not want to screen the film, but those who want to screen it will be provided full security”.
In Gujarat, 20,000 policemen and paramilitary personnel were deployed across the state to ensure law and order is maintained. The situation remained normal across the state, with educational institutions, offices and markets open in most parts.
At least 44 arrests were made on Wednesday under charges of conspiracy, attempt to murder and attempt to commit culpable homicide, damaging private properties, among others, in four FIRs. Nearly 70 people have been named accused, along with a mob of over 2,000, in the FIRs, which say the key accused held a meeting in Sanand and accordingly came to Himalaya Mall “armed with woods, stones and bottles filled with inflammable” to stop the film’s release. The mob went on a rampage, burnt over 60 motorcycles and damaged hundreds of them.
Police Commissioner Singh said, “The police had permitted a candlelight march. Investigation reveals that a rogue group, originating mostly from Sanand, Sanathal and other areas of Ahmedabad rural, was responsible for the violence.”
Earlier, on the day the Supreme Court refused to modify its order staying Gujarat and Rajasthan’s notifications prohibiting the screening of Padmaavat, protests against the film turned violent with mobs in Ahmedabad targeting multiplexes and malls, blocking roads and torching parked vehicles. Police had to fire in the air to scatter the mobs.
At least three Ahmedabad malls — Acropolis which has the PVR multiplex, Himalaya which has Carnival Cinema and Ahmedabad One which has Cinepolis — were targeted by mobs which set ablaze at least 25-30 vehicles, mostly two-wheelers outside Himalaya Mall, and 10-12 vehicles outside Acropolis, Additional Chief Fire Officer Rajesh Bhatt said.
Gujarat has been witnessing sporadic protests as demonstraters previously took to streets and blocked roads by burning tyres and buses in parts of Banaskantha, Mehsana, Surendranagar, Bhuj and Bhavnagar.
Keeping these incidents in mind, Gujarat police has decided to deploy additional forces at “sensitive areas” across the state.
In UP, police personnel have been asked to remain vigilant through the day on the first day of Padmaavat’s screening, which remained peaceful in some halls in Noida. However, the others cancelled shows or stuck to their decision not to screen the movie.
Uttar Pradesh also witnessed demonstrations against the movie’s release, including Lucknow, against the screening of the movie Padmaavat forcing the cancellation of special screenings on the day. In Meerut, protesters pelted stones on a multiplex and in Kanpur, a group reportedly announced a bounty on actor Deepika Padukone’s nose.
Earlier on Sunday, bike-borne protesters smashed glass screens at the DND toll plaza in Noida, while another group gathered at Pari Chowk in Greater Noida and blocked roads, affecting traffic. There also were reports of protesters gathering outside Venice Mall in Greater Noida and tried to meet the management to voice their concerns over the movie.
In Rajasthan, arterial roads were blocked, shops vandalised and bike rallies taken out on Thursday as protests against ‘Padmaavat’ continued in parts of state. The theatre owners refused to screen the film in view of the law and order situation. The Kota-Bundi highway was blocked and traffic was reportedly disrupted on Udaipur-Chittorgarh road and Dungarpur-Ahmedabad road.
Incidents of stone pelting were also reported with about two dozen shops being damaged in Udaipur. However, elaborate security arrangements were in place in the state capital Jaipur, where the five-day Jaipur Literature Festival began today.
The Shri Rajput Karni Sena (SRKS) on Wednesday exhorted people to enforce a ‘janta curfew’ by boycotting the film. The outfit’s chief, founder patron Lokendra Singh Kalvi on being told that there are many in Rajasthan who may want to watch the movie, said, “Those who want to watch should leave the state. They are not worthy of living in Rajasthan. Anyone who can’t save his sisters and daughters cannot have Rajasthani blood and is not a Rajasthani.”
Sporadic violence was reported from various places in Rajasthan. In Chittor, the threat by Jauhar Kshatrani Manch to commit jauhar (self-immolation) at Jauhar Kund in Chittorgarh Fort fizzled out amid a heavy barricade by police at Padal Pole gate, where police screened tourists. “They are not allowing us to live with swabhimaan (pride), and now they are not allowing us to even die with swabhimaan,” Jauhar Kshatrani Manch president Manjushree Shaktawat said.
Leading film distributors and some cinema hall and multiplex owners in Rajasthan have already announced that they will not distribute or screen the movie here.
The BJP government in the state had condemned and banned the movie. However, the Supreme Court cleared the decks for the nationwide release of Padmaavat by staying notifications of the governments of Rajasthan that prohibited screening of the film following protests from the Rajput community.
There were several protests across Maharashtra as well. In Mumbai, many special screenings were cancelled and attendance remained low. In Pune, 10 vehicles were torched by mobs near Vadgaon Bridge. The police arrested 15 people in connection with the violence, all of whom are from Rajasthan.
Maharashtra previously witnessed protests against the movie release with incidents leading to the Mumbai police detaining 96 members of Karni Sena and other Rajput fringe groups. These groups were protesting outside the office of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) against clearance given by the board for the release of movie Padmavat.
Theatre owners in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday decided not to screen the Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie, despite the state government ensuring security. The state witnessed protests and bandh in several places against the period drama.
Earlier, three Muslim youths were arrested for an alleged offensive Facebook post and comments against queen Padmini. They were booked under Section 295 A (deliberate and malicious act, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class). The three were produced before a local magistrate who sent them to judicial custody on Wednesday.
In Bihar’s Muzaffarpur protesters brandished swords, burnt tires in protest against the release of Padmaavat on Thursday. Earlier, a group of about 30 people, who identified themselves as Karni Sena members, vandalised a cinema hall in Muzaffarpur in Bihar, which was scheduled to screen Padmaavat after its release. “We are studying video footage of the incident to identify the suspects,” said DSP Ashish Anand.
Meanwhile in Punjab, Rajput leaders withdrew their opposition to the release after watching a special screening of Padmaavat on Wednesday. The Rajput Mahasabha, which was against the movie’s release, found “nothing objectionable” against the community. “We will suggest that community members all over the country must watch the movie because it is in fact showing the Rajput community in a good light,” one leader said. Read: In Punjab twister, Rajput leaders give Padmaavat a big thumbs-up
The Kolkata Police said on Thursday that it has made elaborate security arrangements across the city, especially around malls and multiplexes, to prevent instances of violence and that anyone found disrupting peace will face strict action. West Bengal is, therefore, expecting a smooth screening of the movie. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been vocal in support for the release, had stated that the state would make special arrangements for the screening, if required.