What is happening in the name of opposing the Padmavat film across West and North India is organized hooliganism motivated by reasons other than the supposed hurt the film has caused to Rajput sentiment. Those who are indulging in widespread vandalism in the BJP-ruled States are going scot-free because the concerned State Governments and the union Government have chosen to look the other way. The aim is to work up a mass hysteria to consolidate the Hindutva vote bank before the coming State Assembly elections and the Lok Sabha poll. The image of the BJP as the ruling party has lost a lot of its sheen in the last four years. The people are realizing that the promises made to them have not been fulfilled and are not going to be fulfilled in the foreseeable future. Hence the necessity of creating some other issue around which the people can be mobilized and political support for the ruling establishment assured.
What began as a show of anger against supposed disrespect to the Hindu queen Padmavati in the film has now been transformed into challenging the authority of the Union Government, the CBFC and even the Supreme Court. The role of the State Governments is one of passive complicity. Hurt Rajput sentiments cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be the cause of attacking a school bus carrying children. But this is what has happened in Haryana which has already seen about half a dozen cases of rape and murder in the last few days. If this is madness, there is a method in it. The total inaction of the State Governments concerned only confirms the suspicion that there is more in the protest against a film than meets the eye.
A very dangerous precedent is being created. A few hundred hoodlums and goons are holding the State to ransom and disrupting civil life, with the State choosing to remain a passive spectator. In a democratic society where the rule of law prevails, some institutions are held sacred, like the Supreme Court. Challenging the authority of the Supreme Court and getting away with it with perfect impunity, corrodes the foundation of a democratic polity. That Sanjay Leela Vanshali had to write to the Karni Sena requesting it to let his film be screened in public theatres despite its clearance by the CBFC shows the helplessness both of the citizen and the State. The ruling party and the State Governments run by it are acquiescing in the lawlessness without a thought for the future. Having tasted blood, these hoodlums may someday turn against them as well.

Tuesday, 30 January, 2018