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Protests against 'Panipat' spread across Rajasthan, politicians fan the flames

After strong protests and threats of vandalism, all theatres in Kota where Panipat was slotted to be screened have decided not to showcase the movie.

Published: 10th December 2019 08:47 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th December 2019 09:45 PM   |  A+A-

Panipat Protest

Protesters burning an effigy in Rajasthan's Kota (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

JAIPUR: Protests against the film ‘Panipat’ continue to rage on and spread across Rajasthan. After several theatres in Jaipur saw vandalism and stopped screening Ashutosh Gowariker's historical on Monday, protests were held at theatres in Kota and Bhilwara districts on Tuesday. The film's portrayal of Bharatpur's famous Jat King Maharaja Surajmal has prompted protests from Jat groups and some royal families in Rajasthan.

READ | Jaipur theatres stop screening 'Panipat' over rising protests by Jat community

After strong protests and threats of vandalism, all theatres in Kota where Panipat was slotted to be screened have decided not to showcase the movie. This followed intense sloganeering and scuffles at the Gold Cinema theatre in Kota after which the theatre manager Aashish Jain remarked: ‘‘We need to protect our cinema halls and that is why none of the 20 theatres where Panipat was to be shown will now be screening the film. We have even cancelled all online bookings for this film. We have still not forgotten how a few years ago, several cinema halls in Kota were damaged during protests over the film Padmavat.’’

Besides Jat groups, political leaders from the Congress and the BJP - including past and present ministers of Rajasthan - have also got involved in attacking the film and demanding a ban on its screening unless the film's portrayal of Bharatpur's Jat King Maharaja Surajmal is rectified. All protestors claim that the movie has hurt the sentiments of the Jat community which is a powerful vote bank in Rajasthan.

The leading political protagonist against the film is Rajasthan Tourism Minister Vishvendra Singh. He belongs to Bharatpur’s former royal family and has openly supported the protests and demanded a ban on the screening of Gowariker's "Panipat" in North India to avoid a law and order situation, given the protests against the film in Bharatpur and other parts of the state.

"It is unfortunate that the legendary Jat ruler, Maharajah Surajmal has been depicted in an unseemly light and historical facts have been distorted in the film 'Panipat'. In the light of the vociferous protest by the Jat community in Haryana, Rajasthan and other regions of North India, I believe the film should be banned to avoid a law and order situation," Vishvendra Singh had tweeted.

But the BJP is not to be left behind. While former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has said that the movie’s distorted depiction of Maharaja Surajmal is ‘condemnable’, a Cabinet Minister in her previous BJP government, Arun Chaturvedi has also strongly objected to the film’s portrayal of Jat King Maharaja Surajmal: ‘‘Filmmakers have no right to present distorted portrayals of personalities who are venerated in our history. Maharaja Surajmal was the Hindu Hriday Samrat of his times and he had given lots of help to the Marathas and the Peshwas. It is terrible to present him in poor light and this mistake in the movie should be correct at the earliest.’’

Besides the Congress and the BJP, members of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, headed by Jat MP from Nagaur Hanuman Beniwal, have not only criticised the film but even staged a protest against the movie outside Jaipur’s famous Raj Mandir Cinema Hall.

READ | Censor board should intervene, says Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot

Political observers say, the protests against Panipat are also fuelled by the desire of all political groups to please the Jat community which is an influential and numerically significant vote bank in Rajasthan. As a noted political analyst, Narain Bareth says: ‘While Bollywood directors find it easy to get free publicity through rows over historical figures, political parties also seek to encash the popular protests that are ignited by such films. When parties have hardly any ideology or programmes, they find it an easy way to get popular support by encouraging issues around religion and caste. No wonder, protests against Panipat are boiling over and politicians are participating so actively in this row.’

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