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What is the Business that India Means - Padmaavat disrupts all !!

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Davos recently selling the dream of India - the shining star that has the potential to bring the fractured world together. He was firm in his argument putting through the point that India's rich heritage and culture provide it with a unique strength across the world. While he was pushing through the abstract soft power that gives us the potential to carry the world together towards brighter future, he was probably unaware of the threat that his country was facing. A threat to the cultural strength and heritage value that he was so proud of in his speeches. A threat which was more serious than any other faced by the country for times immemorial. Probably he now is aware of it and found virtue in the initiatives of the masses to foil the attack.

India has a huge history and has since ancient time stood resilient to external attacks whether from Mughals or from across the border. We have repelled each attack with vigor and the whole country has stood behind our forces when they were on the job. But the attack today is different - one that is internal and from unsuspected culprits. An innocuous looking director - Sanjay Leela Bhansali - has taken the obnoxious attempt to express some artistic creativity and invested huge time, effort and money into the making of a movie Padmaavati ....oops that is Padmaavat now since changing the name would probably blunt the attack. The five changes that the Prasoon Joshi led Censor Board thought would appease the masses and divert their attention to constructive ventures. How wrong they were - we are not such a fool!

A fringe group called Karni Sena took upon themselves to preserve the Rajput - a caste prevalent in north and western part of the country - pride from attacks of such an attempt. They freely sent violent threats forcing a few of the state governments to ban the movie citing law and order issues. When the Supreme Court of India gave its word that such excuses cannot be the foundation for envelope bans on movies that have cleared certification process, the final blow came from the vigilantes came out. They were ready to enforce a "Junta Curfew" - a violent way of preventing people from visiting the theatres.  Well, this is what every fringe group every wants - an issue remotely relevant to be picked on and create havoc to get some airtime on the news waves. What is surprising is the absence of one thing in all this - the sight of administration !!

As soon as the censor board passed the movie, there were many state governments that could not wait to ban it in their jurisdictions. They may have their concerns but it was the easiest way out of their responsibility. When Supreme Court did not buy their argument and even the appeals did not yield fruits, they resorted to persuasive speeches. I was surprised to hear the news bites from likes of Mr. Khattar who said if multiplex owners took on themselves to avoid showing the movie, it would be good. What message was this supposed to be - what I heard was a push for multiplex owners. And they get the hint and the movie has not been released in many states - incidentally all under the rule of Bhartiya Janta Party, the one that rules the country from the center and whose Prime Minister shook hands with the most powerful in the world riding on the Soft Power that India is.

Yesterday, we heard news of some of these goons attacking a school bus on the trip to drop students after school. Stones were hurled and kids frightened - as if they were the ones attacking the cultural thread of country or shutting them down would bring the Rajput pride back. Again what was common was the distance that administration kept from the incident. The police took the role of being a mute spectator. No action was taken because .....hmmm...ummmm.... I am not really sure. There are very few justifications that such inaction was witnessed, one being soft indications from the echelons to let the issue take its course and allow the "senas" to enforce their so-called curfew. Are upcoming elections behind this giveaway because it is hard for me to believe that such hooliganism goes unchecked without passive agreements of state government.

I am sure the argument from union government is the fact that law and order is a state matter and they are least concerned about it. However, when it came to protecting a state government official against the state government, they had sent in paramilitary force. I am pretty sure even this wasn't needed here and a simple phone from the Prime Minister's office to the CM offices of the states that the leader - the one and only at helm - does not appreciate law being taken in hands of a few hooligans and would like the full power of state administration seen to prevent any such misadventure. But this did not happen and hence what wasn't supposed to be, happened. School children were frightened, mall goers hackled, warnings hurled and property damaged.

Amidst this inaction and indecision, whatever goodwill that the Prime Minister generated through his Davos attempt was undone. As the leaders from ASEAN countries land here to grace the Republic Day Parade, we cannot even manage small affairs of our country. The red carpet has been unwoven and our societal fabric hampered - all on an assumption that an oblique reference to a historic incident in one of the movies could impact the traditional repute of courage and valor of the Rajputs. What I would have loved to see was the Prime Minister sending a strong message to stop this menace and a part of Rajput society coming to the forefront to counter the narrative being spread by a few fringe elements who actually do not represent the society as such.

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