I have lived all my life in Gujarat till moving to Delhi little over a month back. Before I could even say I miss home, I was busy calling up my friends and family last night to make sure they are home and safe. Some goons had taken over the city, burning vehicles, hockey sticks in hand, breaking shops. All because a film, which they have not seen, might distort their history hurt their sentiments.
On 22nd January, Congress’ newest ally Hardik Patel wrote a letter to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani demanding a ban on the screening of the film Padmaavat. In his letter, Hardik had said that the government must not allow screening of the film ‘at any cost’ keeping in mind the ‘law and order situation and the community’s sentiments’. He warned that if any issue arises with respect to law and order, it will be entirely government’s responsibility.
On 23rd January, a day after what seemed like a veiled threat for violence, and a day before the film is slated for release, violence erupted in Gujarat. Ticket counters and vehicles parked outside multiplexes in cities in Gujarat were set ablaze and shops inside the malls were vandalised by people identifying themselves as “Karni Sena”, the self appointed custodians of Rajput pride. A ‘candle march’ was held by Karni Sena, following which, the crowd broke into various groups and ran rampage.
— ANI (@ANI) January 23, 2018
प्रदर्शनकारी हिंसक बने है,उनके खिलाफ़ कड़ी कारवाही बेहद जरूरी बन पड़ी है।
पश्चिम अहमदबाद में अफ़रातफ़री का माहौल खड़ा किया गया है।
एक्रोपोलिश और हिमालय मोल को निशाना बनाया गया है।
कई वेहिकल्स आग के हवाले कर दीये गए है।@vijayrupanibjp @Pradipsinh_mla pic.twitter.com/rIdgcLfQA4
— Janak Dave (@dave_janak) January 23, 2018
They ran rampage even though malls had put up boards saying they are refraining from screening the film.
Gujarat: A mall and adjacent shops vandalised, vehicles torched in protest against #Padmaavat in Ahmedabad’s Memnagar, police at the spot. Mall Manager Rakesh Mehta says, ‘we had put up boards saying we won’t screen the film still the mall was attacked by a horde of men’. pic.twitter.com/VYh0ddz7Oj
— ANI (@ANI) January 23, 2018
A friend, whose parents were stuck in a mall last night because it was sealed after goons rampaged through it, sent a desperate plea to me asking me if I could do something about it, perhaps tweet to the Chief Minister and ask him why the police is a mute spectator to a violent mob. Desperate times call for desperate means. But what can my tweet tell the Chief Minister what he does not already know? That there is a complete failure of law and order? How could they miscalculate the threat perception to terribly, that violence escalated to this level? ‘Why can’t police arrest them?’ my friend asked. I had no answer.
Today morning, posters have come up outside malls, which were set blaze, by helpless multiplex owners promising they will not screen the movie Padmaavat.
— Tv9 Gujarati (@tv9gujarati) January 24, 2018
Having said that, one wonders if these violent protests are politically motivated. Especially with Congress’ newest close ally Hardik Patel writing a letter to CM Rupani already holding his government responsible for ‘any violence’ that may take place. Not just Patel, Congress MLA Alpesh Thakor also extended his support for the ban claiming that an attempt to tarnish the glorious history of Kshatriya samaj is being made through the film.
Whether the violence is part of a bigger political conspiracy or not, the fact that public and private property was ransacked and innocent civilians were terrorised as the police and government stood by as mute spectators, is shocking.
I am angry because my city burned over a film no one has even seen.