We just celebrated our 69th Republic Day, a day on which we acknowledge the formal adoption of the Constitution of India. However, this is no longer a country where ‘the law is the rule’. Here ‘might is right’ and the recent Padmavati furore is one of the best examples for this.
The past two years have seen the quick rise of an obscure organization to such dizzying heights of popularity, that it should be taught as a case study for students of Marketing and Publicity! Two years ago, if anyone had asked me who Shree Rajput Karni Sena (referred to as SRKS hereafter) is, I wouldn’t have had a clue, but now all I hear about is this depraved organization. SRKS is a caste-based organization formed in 2005 and over the years it has committed several acts of transgressions such as vandalism, rioting, assault, threatening etc. Despite this, they have only grown bigger and stronger, and this bothers me deeply.
Let’s talk about their recent claim to fame from the very beginning. They first made the headlines in January 2017, when they vandalized and torched the Padmavati film set in Rajasthan. A group of miscreants broke all the mirrors which were to be used for a scene in which Allauddin Khilji is shown Padmavati’s reflection because according to these ‘extremely well-read historians’, her face was never shown to him, it wasn’t her reflection but her brother’s who was made to dress up like her. This story has, of course, never been verified by anybody.
Then they assaulted the director of the movie, Mr Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and threatened to shut down the filming of the movie. After that came the news of their ‘bravest act’ yet- threatening to mutilate Deepika Padukone’s nose and announcing a bounty on her life. This was followed by threats of torching the cinema halls that dared to show the movie. In spite of The Supreme Court and the Central Board of Film Certification giving this movie a green signal, Lokendra Kalvi, who heads this Sena, said, “Sanjay Leela Bhansali makes films that divide communities. He profits from our emotions and anger.”
Then, for the grand finale, just a few days before the release date – which coincidentally was one day before India’s Republic day – we saw SRKS’s mind-numbingly foolish behaviour on full display: large-scale rioting, stone pelting, outrageous sloganeering, effigy burning and mindless torching of objects.
We are slowly championing the art of taking offence at everything and passing fake news/fiction as actual facts. I’m sure you have all read several articles on the legend of Padmavati and are all too familiar with the story, but I wanted to share this one piece published by the Indian Express. Here is an excerpt from the article: “Cultural memory of a community hardly ever distinguishes between historical authenticity and fictional concepts that have over time acquired the garb of historicity. In that sense, it becomes increasingly difficult for the community to come to terms with the fact that a part of their historical pride may or may not have existed at all.”
What the Karni Sena has managed to do brilliantly, is to create a narrative wherein Rani Padmavati has become the latest symbol of the cultural identity of the Rajput community, so that anyone who says anything opposite to what is being portrayed, automatically attracts the ire of those easily influenced by such cheap tactics.
Shree Rajput Karni Sena is the biggest group of hypocrites there can be. On one hand, they talk about Rajputi valour, and on the other, they attack a bus ferrying school kids. They talk about history like they are experts on the subject, but when asked about the legend of Padmavati, they know absolutely nothing. While they are the ones who go on and on about the honour of a woman, they are also the ones who threaten to cut the nose of one and announce a bounty on her head.
If only these people trying to protect the memory and dignity of Padmavati, did the same for women who actually exist and are not fictional…
In my opinion, SRKS is just a gang of goons brandishing swords, who are clueless about history, culture, civic sense – anything remotely related to education, and most importantly, the difference between fiction and fact. There are several issues that need serious dialogue and participation of the community like education, health, women empowerment etc.
These brave souls have picked up the most important one of all- to protest a director taking creative liberty on the filming of a fictional story/legend.
They say that the movie Padmaavat is tarnishing the name and pride of Rajputs, but it is actually them who are dragging the name of this reputed community through the dirt.