Padmaavat release: Ahmedabad malls vandalized, vehicles set on fire; Section 144 in Gurgaon

Ahmedabad: Violence and arson hit Ahmedabad on January 23 night shortly after a candle march by Karni Sena activists against the January 25 release of controversial Bollywood film 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 theater 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, 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, 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.
Khangarot is the principal of Agrawal College in Jaipur, BL Gupta is a retired professor of the history department of the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, while Roshan Sharma is a Jaipur-based historian. Kapil Kumar is a Delhi-based historian, the PTI reported.
In Jaipur, Rajput outfits urged the Centre to issue an ordinance banning the film and annul the certification received by the movie.
“If the government does not take cognizance of the situation and bring an ordinance within 24 hours, then the situation will deteriorate,” said Giriraj Singh Lotwara, president of Shree Rajput Sabha.
In Jodhpur, before a bench of the Rajasthan high court, producers of the film agreed to a private screening if security was ensured. The court is hearing a petition to quash an FIR against the film’s director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh for hurting religious sentiments.
“We told the court today that the producers are ready for the private screening of the film, but it is important to ensure the law and order. The public prosecutor sought time for reply. After the government’s response, the court will order the screening,” said Nishant Bora, counsel for Bhansali.
Uttarakhand director general of police (DGP) Anil Raturi said adequate arrangements had been made to tackle any untoward situation. Additional DGP Ashok Kumar instructed the SPs of all districts to provide ample security to all the theatres.
The secretary of the Uttarakhand Cinema Association, Suyash Agarwal, said the movie would be released only if the police provided theatres with adequate security. The state has nearly 50 theatres.
Protests against the film continued to rage across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. In Lucknow, newly appointed DGP OP Singh said appropriate steps would be taken.

- Advertisement -