In an unusual development, Karni Sena has decided to withdraw its protests against the Sanjay Leela Bhansali film Padmaavat. The outfit also acknowledged that the film glorified the valour of the Rajputs. Karni Sena has been protesting against the movie Padmavati, later renamed Padmaavat after suggestion from the Central Board of Film Certification, since more than a year now. In January last year, Sanjay Leela Bhansali had also been physically assaulted by some hoodlums claiming to be members of the Karna Sena at Jaigarh Fort in Jaipur. This unfortunate incident had then led to the cancellation of the shooting of the movie.
Now, more than a year later after a lot of violence and controversy, Karni Sena seems to have had a change of heart. Karni Sena leader Yogendra Singh Katar in a letter has said that a members belonging to the outfit watched the movie Padmaavat in Mumbai on the directions of the outfit’s national president, Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi. They found that the movie glorifies the Rajput valour and is in essence an ode to the community and its brave warriors. Katar also said that every Rajput will proud after watching the film.
On the outfit’s charge against Sanjay Leela Bhansali that he had shown an intimate dream sequence between Rani Padmavati and Alauddin Khilji, Katar writes that there is not such objectionable scene between Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khilji and Queen Padmini of Mewar, which hurts the sentiments of Rajputs. Katar goes on to assure the local administration in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat of their help in the release of the film in these states.
This sudden U-turn by Karni Sena and its open support for the Congress party in Rajasthan raises many doubts about the whole controversy. The Karni Sena celebrated the victory of the Congress Party in the recent by polls in Rajasthan.
Since, Rajasthan is the main area of activity of Karni Sena, one wonders whether the entire controversy over the movie and linking it to Rajput “honour” was a ploy by the outfit to achieve political points. First, by the intensifying the protests before the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh state elections and then after the release of the movie was postponed to coincide with the Rajasthan by polls. It could very well have been done at the prodding of the Congress party to ensure that the Rajput community, especially in Rajasthan, turns against the BJP. It would also be pertinent to remember that the Congress had maintained a complete silence on the entire issue of Padmavati. In fact, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had even lent support to the protests by Karni Sena. In the past the Congress has made concerted attempts to brazenly encourage caste-based fragmentation of the Indian society.
Ironically, the Karni Sena had all this while been protesting against the “distortion” of history in the movie. Now, by their own admission they had neither watched the movie earlier nor had an iota of information about the entire matter. They had been indulging in mindless acts of violence on the excuse of the supposed distortion of history. For a while, this also had found some resonance with the sections of right-wing who probably supported the view that if portions of the movie twisted history then they should either be edited, removed or the movie itself should be banned.
It is in keeping this sensitivity of the people and the looming specter of violence by Karni Sena that the state Governments of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan had even approached the Supreme Court seeking to prevent the release of the movie in their states. In future, too, Congress would go all out to use the ‘services’ of fringe groups turned self-styled private militias such as Karni Sena to create hollow controversies in order to emotionally galvanize the people against the BJP. The BJP must only guard against such attempt but also pre-empt them if possible. In Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath showed the way to others on how to deal with such private militias.
On a lighter note, this endorsement of the movie by Karni Sena should also liven or cheer up actor Sushant Singh Rajput who had dropped his surname ‘Rajput’ in protest against the attack on Sanjay Leela Bhansali by Karni Sena last year. Now that Karni Sena too has decided to promote the film, Sushant Singh Rajput who in a tweet, when the controversy had begun last year, had claimed to be “10 times more Rajput” in response to a twitter user. Now, it the appropriate time for Sushant to rename himself – Sushant Singh (Rajput)^10 since he had dropped his surname when Karni Sena had initially protested against the movie. Perhaps, Sushant might join the chorus of Swara Bhaskar in complaining that after watching the movie he felt “reduced” to a glorified and valorous Rajput.