Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Padmavati continues to remain in the news for wrong reasons. A few days ago, the sets of the historical epic in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur were set ablaze by unidentified miscreants who also got involved in a scuffle with the security guards. The shocking incident comes less than two months after Bhansali was roughed up by members of right-wing group Shri Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena in Jaipur. On Thursday, Rajasthan’s Social Justice Minister Arun Chaturvedi issued a controversial statement, saying the film will be screened before the members of Karni Sena and will be given clearance for release in the state only after getting their nod. However, later he took a U-turn and clarified that the state government had neither stopped the shooting nor invited Karni Sena for the screening.
In an interview to News18, Chaturvedi gave another statement which is totally undigestable.”Whenever facts are tampered there will be strong reactions from people,” he said. Is he justifying the acts of vandalism by Karni Sena activists who have taken up the task of protecting Rani Padmini’s self-esteem? At least his actions suggest so.
On March 5, activists of Karni Sena destroyed two mirrors in the palace of Rani Padmini at Chittorgarh Fort. They were coaxed into believing a legend that Delhi sultan Alauddin Khilji had viewed the queen through these mirrors. As of now, no arrests have been made in the case. Instead, the minister said that besides Karni Sena representatives, other ‘knowledgeable’ members of the society will also be invited for the screening. Will the esteemed minister divulge the names of knowledgeable people who have stopped him from taking any action against the fringe elements’ moral policing in recent times? In December last year, activists of Lal Shakti and Rashtriya Hindu Ekta Manch (RHEM) vandalised a painting exhibition in Jaipur and beat up one of the painters. Due to pressure, the state general secretary of RHEM was arrested.
Similarly, in 2015 two policemen were removed after being accused of allegedly manhandling artists at an exhibition in the Pink City’s Jawahar Kala Kendra. The dummy of a cow meant to spread the message of harmful effects due to consumption of plastic waste was objected by right-wing groups. The event assumed significance in wake of lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri area. The incident had created a lot of controversies forcing the government to step in. It is sad that the statement is coming from a minister who has been assigned the task of ensuring social justice to the people of the state. So unfortunate.
But why is the Vasundhara Raje government turning a blind eye towards the high-handedness of this fringe group? The reason is pretty simple. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party fears a reining in on organisations like Karni Sena might lead to Rajputs rising up against the party which might be catastrophic in the Assembly Elections next year. Besides this, hailing from an RSS background Chaturvedi might have held himself from cracking a whip on self-proclaimed custodians of Rajput and Hindu pride. Whatever the reasons might be, only the CM is better suited to answer it. But the state known for its vibrant culture is definitely not suitable for creative expression.