The Assam Police has ordered a two-month ban on an Assamese TV serial, in which the protagonists are a Hindu woman and a Muslim man, accepting that it had “outraged the religious sentiment of a certain section”, following protests against it for over a month by Hindu right-wing groups.
In an order dated August 24, Guwahati Commissioner of Police M P Gupta wrote to Rengoni TV informing it of the ban under the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995, and saying, “The gist of (the) allegation… is that the serial Begum Jaan has hurt the religious sentiments of certain sections of the society and the serial contains visuals or words contemptuous and defamatory of a particular religion and section of society and is likely to encourage or incite violence.”
The police said it was acting on complaints registered by the Hindu Jagaran Mancha, All Assam Brahmin Youth Council, United Trust of Assam and an individual named Gunajit Adhikary.
The producers, who have suspended shooting temporarily, are planning to move court against the ban.
Earlier, Preety Kkongana, who plays the female lead in Begum Jaan, had said she was facing rape and murder threats online. Denying allegations that the show promoted ‘love jihad’, she had said it just featured a Hindu woman in trouble being helped by a Muslim man.
The police order said that the complaints were placed before a district-level monitoring committee under the cable Act. “The Committee after due deliberation and viewing the video clips of the serial Begum Jaan has opined with overwhelming majority that the aforesaid serial is in violation of Programme Code as laid down in Rule 6 of the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994… The Committee with overwhelming majority has come to a conclusion that the said serial has outraged the religious sentiment of certain section of the society which may lead to breach of peace and tranquillity in the society, unless the telecast of the serial is stopped with immediate effect.”
Confirming the ban, Gupta told The Indian Express that the local TV channel had been issued a show cause notice and a response sought within a month.
Rengoni TV started telecasting the serial three months ago. In early July, an online campaign started against it, with a group called the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti claiming that the show promoted love jihad. Twitter hashtags like #BoycottBegumJaan and #BoycottRengoni also did the rounds.
Sanjive Narain, the Chairman and Managing Director of AM Television, that runs Rengoni channel, said the allegations were “completely baseless”. “Just because a Muslim boy and Hindu woman are the protagonists of the show, they are saying all this. To further their politics, they are making these allegations… If the court provides respite, we will resume (telecast),” he said.
Gupta, in his order, invoked Section 19 of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 which deals with “Power to prohibit transmission of certain programmes in public interest.”
The law says that an authorised officer may “prohibit any cable operator from transmitting or re-transmitting any programme or channel if, it is not in conformity with the prescribed programme code…likely to promote, on grounds of religion, race, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, linguistic or regional groups or castes or communities or which is likely to disturb the public tranquillity.”
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