oppn parties Padmavat: Society Must Find a Way to Curb Mob Mentality

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Padmavat: Society Must Find a Way to Curb Mob Mentality

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
As expected, all four tricks are being employed by those who are opposed to the release of CBFC certified Padmavat. The governments of two states, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, are appealing to the SC to review its order revoking their ban on the film in the light of massive law and order problem it will create. To create an atmosphere to get a favourable decision from the apex court, the mobs have already indulged in widespread arson and violence targeting private property and blocking highways and roads. Further, cinema hall owners all over India have been first blackmailed emotionally and then openly threatened to desist from releasing the film. Finally, a good number of Rajput women have threatened to commit suicide in the Supreme Court premises if the court does not stop the release of the film.

As this writer had mentioned in the last article (http://indiacommentary.com/will-padmavaat-now-release-in-raj-guj-mp-and-haryana/) on the subject, the Supreme Court’s order was just a legal decree. It is meant to be enforced by the very people who do not want the film to be released as they are more concerned about vote banks than freedom of expression. They are more concerned about appeasing the unfounded concerns (unfounded because none of them have seen the film) of a section of the people to deprive the filmmaker his right of expression and deprive the rest of the citizens the right to enjoy a work of art.

How does the apex court tackle this situation? It has already dismissed the petition by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh for reconsidering the ban revoking order on grounds of law and order, saying that maintaining the same was their constitutional duty. If the film is not released in, say, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat – the four states which banned the film and the ban was revoked by the last SC order – the court can only ask for an explanation from the executive. They will cite massive and uncontrollable law and order problems and refusal of cinema-hall owners to release the film as excuses. The court can then take it as contempt of court and impose appropriate punishment. That is the most it can do. The film will not get released despite its order, or will probably get a token release in a heavily guarded single-screen theatre where no one will watch it risking life and limb as violent mobs will be protesting there. That doesn’t augur well for freedom of speech and expression in India.

It is no longer about Padmavat. It is more about the power of the mob and vote bank politics. It is also no longer about just the right wing. For years, the left had asked a pliable Congress to ban what it considered unpalatable. Hence, Shame by Salman Rushdie was banned. Then, Mamata Banerjee, who now champions free speech, had banned Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja in West Bengal and even allowed party cadre to hound out the author from the state. Hence, the problem is not limited to politicians of any one kind. This is a disease that has spread across the political spectrum. It has become a game where people close to the ruling dispensation of the time manage to decide what ‘good’ culture is and what is ‘bad’. The people are not given a choice.

Since politicians encourage this, more and smaller mobs are taking it up. On any presumed slur against their caste, community or religion by any artist, these mobs vandalize public property, threaten the artist and prevent the public from enjoying the work. To them, art and culture mean nothing and freedom of expression is a utopian principle. They kill beef-eaters on just rumours, kill journalists and rationalists for holding an opinion different from theirs, force students to vote in a particular manner in college union polls, destroy public vehicles, trains and block highways and demand reservations for themselves through violent means. If society does not find a solution to curb this mob mentality, very soon we will have an India where every five years, only that kind of thinking will be allowed to be aired which pleases the ruling dispensation and its cohorts.