Violence, Arson, torching and section 144 in India ahead of "Padmaavat" Release

Violence, Arson, torching and section 144 in India ahead of

NEW DELHI - Violence and arson hit Ahmedabad on Tuesday night shortly after a candle march by Karni Sena activists against the January 25 release of controversial Bollywood film <link> Padmaavat.

More than 150 four-wheelers and two-wheelers were damaged as mobs went on the rampage after 8pm, targeting three malls with multiplexes and a standalone theatre complex in the western part of the city.

Karni Sena’s Gujarat unit chief Raj Shekhwat said their activists had nothing to do with the vandalism. “The violence is condemnable. Karni Sena is not involved in the incidents,” he added.

Three city malls — Acropolis, Ahmedabad One, Himalaya Mall — and Cinemex, the standalone theatre complex, came under attack despite theatre owners in the city declaring they would not screen Padmaavat.

Windows of four-wheelers parked outside were smashed and two-wheelers were set on fire.

Flames billowed near the entrance of Acropolis and Himalaya Mall well past 10pm.

“Those inside the malls and theatres were safely evacuated. No one was reported injured,” said a senior police officer who did not want to be named. “Our priority was to take control of the situation, which was done. Next, we will conduct an investigation and book the miscreants.”

Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel said, “The government has made an appeal for peace. Action will be taken against lawbreakers.” Patel added, “The (Gujarat) government had put a ban on the release, but following the SC verdict, its screening cannot be stopped. However, the theatre owners had voluntarily declared not to screen the movie.”

Several states braced to deal with law and order problems over the film’s release.

In Gurgaon <link>, the district administration enforced prohibitory orders till Sunday to maintain law and order situation. There are over 40 multiplexes and cinema halls in Gurgaon.

Gurgaon deputy commissioner Vinay Pratap Singh said, “Section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed in view of release of the ‘Padmaavat’ in various cinema halls and multiplexes on January 25 as there is likelihood of law and order disturbance.”

“Following imposition of Section 144, there is prohibition on presence of people carrying firearms and other articles capable of causing injury, raising slogans and exhibiting placards within 200 meters radius of the cinema halls and multiplexes from January 23 to January 28,” Singh said.

Rajasthan said extra forces would be deployed for the film’s release. Uttarakhand said theatres screening the movie would be provided security.

“Now, we have no other alternative but to ensure law and order... and that we will do,” said Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria.

The state’s additional director general of police (law and order), NRK Reddy, said all district superintendents of police had been asked to remain alert. “The challenge for the police will be to deal with issues arising out of Padmaavat’s release, Republic Day and the five-day long Jaipur Literature Festival starting from January 25,” he added.

The censor board cleared the movie in December-end after a name change — from the earlier Padmavati — but caste groups, led by the Shri Rajput Karni Sena, are not satisfied.

Hours after the SC refused to reinstate the ban, Karni Sena patron Lokendra Singh Kalvi reiterated his threat of a janta (public) curfew if the film was released. “It is disheartening to know that the Supreme Court hasn’t respected public sentiment,” he said.

The Karni Sena named a six-member panel comprising erstwhile royals, and historians to watch the film ahead of its release <link>, reported PTI. The Karni Sena responded to a letter by Bhansali Productions and disclosed the panel would watch the film before its release, as proposed by the filmmakers.

Historians RS Khangarot, BL Gupta, Kapil Kumar, Roshan Sharma and erstwhile Mewar royal family member Vishwaraj Singh, and erstwhile Banswara royal family member Jagmal Singh are on the panel, said the Karni Sena.