Indeed, this factor appears to loom larger in some of the other states under the BJP’s administration.
The Supreme Court acted strongly on Thursday in staying the notifications issued by the Rajasthan and Gujarat governments to prevent the release of the film Padmaavat, which has fallen foul of a Rajasthan-based caste outfit that has projected itself as an upholder of Rajput traditions and history as perceived by it. The court rightly spoke in terms of protecting the freedom of expression.
However, it’s far from certain that these two state governments, as well as Madhya Pradesh, whose BJP government had taken a comparable stance, appreciate the meaning of the Supreme Court’s order or are inclined to follow it in letter and spirit. The Haryana government, also run by the BJP, had initially taken the same view on not permitting release of the film in the state as the other BJP-ruled states, but appears to have modified its stand in view of the court’s order. This is forward-looking. But even in Haryana it’s not certain that the film’s inaugural screening will take place on January 25 as planned. This is due to the threat of violence that may deter cinemas.
Indeed, this factor appears to loom larger in some of the other states under the BJP’s administration. The caste-inspired groups give every indication that they will take active steps to ensure that an “unofficial ban” of the film is implemented. This is indeed worrying.
It is regrettable that the chief ministers of the states in question are holding back from showing respect for the rule of law and upholding high constitutional values. Officially, these states have only said that they will study the order and then see what they will do.
This is regressive. To begin with, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana were wrong in adopting the attitude they did once the Central Board of Film Certification, a statutory body, had cleared the film with some changes.
These changes were brought about to placate the so-called caste sentiments, although the opponents of the film had made dire threatening observations against the producers, director and the actors of the film without even bothering to see the film, in spite of repeated requests by all concerned to do so.
There is a lesson here — that appeasement of backward elements in society that openly threaten violence, in their eagerness to subvert the Constitution, is never a good idea. It encourages brinkmanship all the more.
The responsibility of the Supreme Court bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, which has passed the order on Padmaavat, has not ended. It must ready itself to act boldly if the state governments in question either engage in contempt of court openly, or turn a blind eye when members of the public do so and fail to enforce the directions of the nation’s highest court.