Sporadic protests were witnessed in many parts of Punjab and Haryana on Friday against the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal’s decision to give a go ahead for the screening of 'MSG: Messenger of God' , a film by controversial godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan.
While the film was earlier slated to be released on Friday, due to the matter being referred to the Censor Board, its release has now been deferred for January 23.
In Punjab various Sikh organisations came out to protest against the movie’s release. The temporal seat of the Sikhs, the Akal Takht, had in December last year sought a ban on the movie by the godman who had first hurt the sentiments of the community when he had allegedly dressed up like the Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh. Several radical Sikh organisations like the Dal Khalsa and the Peer Mohammad faction of the All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) had then also supported the demand.
In Amritsar, a protest march was carried out by the Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee against the movie and the Rapid Action Force had to be called out to keep the law and order situation under control. Similar protests were also reported from Batala.
In Haryana, too the Sikhs protested at Ambala. Here the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee had also called for a ban on the movie.
There was a lot of tension in other parts of the State as the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) also announced protests against the movie. Its activists protested in Gurgaon, Hisar and Rohtak and the police had to come out in large numbers to prevent clashes between them and the supporters of the godman.
Incidentally, Ram Rahim’s issuance of diktat to his followers to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party had upset the political bandwagon of the INLD, whose leader Om Prakash Chautala had openly declared that he would run his government from jail, as he is incarcerated in a teacher recruitment scam case. The BJP had gone on to win a complete majority in the 90-member Haryana Assembly by winning 47 seats.
On Friday, the national president of Indian National Students’Organisation, Digvijay Chautala said the decision to pass Ram Rahim’s film with a few cuts was a political one. “We should remember that 25 MLAs of the BJP had met and thanked him after the polls,” he said.
Mr Chautala, who is the grandson of Om Prakash Chautala, said his party would protest against the premiere screening of the movie in Gurgaon and its screening elsewhere as the godman had in the past hurt the sentiments of the Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus alike.
But the protests notwithstanding, the supporters of Ram Rahim believe that the rule of law should prevail. A supporter said a recent music album of his, “Love Charger” , had sold over two million copies and likewise the film would do well on the backing of his nearly 50 million claimed supporters.
Ahead of the release of the movie, the Union Home Ministry had a week ago issued a communiqué to both Haryana and Punjab cautioning against huge protests against the movie. It had pointed out that major Sikh organisations have objected to the movie’s release and urged both the States to maintain adequate security near cinema halls.
INLD workers detained(Gurgaon Correspondent adds)
Around 60 workers of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and its students' wing Indian National Students' Organisation (INSO) were detained at Leisure Valley ground at Gurgaon on Friday, while they were protesting against the premier of Dera Saccha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim's film “MSG-The Messenger of God”.
The followers of Dera Saccha Sauda had started gathering in large numbers at Leisure Valley ground here since morning for the proposed premier of the film at the Leisure Vally ground. The INLD workers had also planned a protest close to the premier venue leading to fears of possible clash between the two groups.
The Gurgaon Police had made elaborate security arrangements in and around the ground to avoid any untoward incident and it was eventually decided to take the INLD workers into custody.
“About 60 workers of the INLD and the INSO have been detained by the Gurgaon Police in order to maintain law and order situation in the city and to avert clashes with the supporters of Dera Saccha Sauda, Sirsa who are collecting in large numbers at Leisure Valley Ground in Sector 29 Gurgaon for the planned premiere show of the movie ‘MSG - The Messenger of God’,” said PRO CP Office Gurgaon.
The protesters alleged that the Dera cheif was projecting himself as God through his movie misleading his followers and the masses. The INLD is upset with Dera chief for supporting BJP in recently concluded Assembly elections in Haryana. The INLD believes that the Dera support to BJP during elections is one of the major factors for their defeat.