Padmaavat: In surrendering to Karni Sena, Rajasthan, MP govts are bowing down to paper tiger

Sandipan Sharma

January 23, 2018 14:27:17 IST

Rajasthan has never succumbed to terror. But, 25 January may be a turning point in the history of its brave people. On that day, we might see the birth of a new brand of terror.

To understand Rajasthan's resilience and defiance, let's go back to the morning of 14 May, 2008, the day after nine bomb blasts killed 63 people and injured hundreds in Jaipur.

Within hours of the terror attack, the first in Jaipur's history, its people were back on their feet, squaring their shoulders, thrusting their chests out and looking the invisible enemy in the eye. Tauqeer aka Abdul Subhan Qureshi, the alleged mastermind of the blasts who was arrested in Delhi on Monday, would perhaps vividly remember the scenes in Jaipur the next morning.

Deepika Padukone in Padmaavat.

In the very temples where bombs had killed devotees, there was the usual rush of people eager for the first glimpse of Lord Hanuman. In the Churiwala  (bangles) markets of the walled city, women were busy bargaining for the best colours. The florists on the pavements were selling their rose bouquets and marigold garlands. And, at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, where an IPL game was on, there was a long queue of spectators ready to see cricket beat terror.

Jaipur, and by extension Rajasthan, did not bow down to terror that day. Ten years later, it is getting ready to be scared into silence by the tyranny of the various Karni Senas (there are three of them) in the state. A new brand of terror is coming to town.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court refused to entertain the Rajasthan government's plea for a ban on Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat. It told the governments of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh that they better allow the film to be screened and ensure law and order is maintained. But, at least as far as Rajasthan is concerned, fear of the Karni Senas reigns supreme.

The very act of the governments of Rajasthan and MP to approach the apex court for reconsidering its earlier decision to allow screening the film is abject surrender to bullying and blackmail. Nobody in the governments has seen the film. Nobody has bothered to evaluate whether it is actually a threat to law and order. But, in acts of abject surrender of their authority, they first banned the film and then, when the SC disallowed it, went to the court again, asking it to reconsider its decision. The tenacious toeing of the Karni Sena lines shows these governments have become puppets of leaders of these fringe elements.

The argument of these state government for imposing a ban on the film is frivolous.

They claim this is distortion of history. But, the governments themselves can't satisfactorily answer where exactly does history mention Padmavati or Rani Padmini of Chittorgarh. The governments claim a threat to law and order if the film is screened. But, its leaders have taken not even a single step to enforce law and order, warn the hotheads threatening violence with strict punishment or taken any step to ensure the safety of theatres where the film is screened and viewers interested in watching it.

The result of this surrender to Karni Sena is this: Not a single distributor is willing to touch Padmaavat in Rajasthan. Not a single theatre-owner is willing to screen it. They argue when the government can't stand up to thuggery and threats, how can they put their screens and patrons at risk?

The problem with the government's abdication of its responsibility of abiding by the law and the Constitution is that grossly overestimates the Karni Sena, which claims to represent Rajputs in Rajasthan and, with its antics, has managed to become the self-proclaimed voice of Rajputs in other states too.

In reality, Karni Sena leaders are paper tigers with absolutely no standing on the ground. The only leader who had Rajputs under his baton was  former vice president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who, unlike the atavistic leaders of the Karni Sena, was a liberal. Since his demise, no Rajput has been able to claim the support of the community. The omniscient, omnipresent chief of one branch of Karni Sena, Lokendra Kalvi, claims to be omnipotent. But, on the ground, he has never won an election.

A decade ago, he had formed the Social Justice Front under Rajput heavyweight Devi Singh Bhati. But the front was routed in elections. And since Bhati distanced himself from rabble-rousing, Kalvi has been a lone wolf, but literally without the bite to match.

If Padmaavat fails to hit theatres in Rajasthan (and also MP), it would only show the pathetic surrender of a state to a paper tiger.

Indian Mujahiddin would be impressed.

Updated Date: Jan 23, 2018 14:27 PM