Bhopal: A day after Bajrang Dal men allegedly ransacked the sets of Ashram and smeared ink on its producer-director Prakash Jha while objecting to the name of the web series in the Madhya Pradesh capital, state home minister Narottam Mishra backed their demand and asked why filmmakers always choose topics that hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.
“Humari bhavnao ko aahat karne wale drishya filmate kyun ho? Mujhe is se aapatti hai. Aur himmat hai to kisi dusre dharm ka kar ke dikaho; samhaj me aa jayega phir. (Why do filmmakers always opt for subjects which hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus? I object to it. Why don’t they [filmmakers] dare to make films on other religions? They will understand the consequences,” Mishra said referring to Muslims at a press conference in Bhopal on Monday.
Bajrang Dal men barged into the sets of Ashram at the Old Central Jail around 6 pm Sunday and attacked the crew, smeared ink on Jha and broke the windscreens of two buses. One person was reportedly injured, according to Bhopal DIG Irshad Wali.
In several videos of the incident, which went viral on social media, the right-wing outfit’s men can be seen chasing and assaulting the crew members with sticks and vandalising the set.
Soon after the attack, the police detained a few of the attackers but the Bajrang Dal threatened to disrupt the shooting further.
Bajrang Dal members also raised slogans against Jha and the anti-hero protagonist of the series, Bobby Deol, accusing them of hurting the Hindu sentiments, eyewitnesses said.
The incident occurred three days after men from the Bajrang Dal and other right-wing outfits opposed the shooting and threatened to attack the sets if their demand was not met.
Backing the Bajrang Dal’s demand, Mishra further said that fresh guidelines on shooting the controversial scenes of the series will be issued. “The administration’s permission will be required to shoot controversial scenes that can hurt religious sentiments.”
Terming the attack “unfortunate” Mishra said that Madhya Pradesh welcomes the producers “but they should refrain from hurting religious sentiments. Producer-director Prakash Jha should think about it”.
Jha has a history of shooting films in Bhopal—Raajneeti (2010), Aarakshan (2011), Satyagraha (2013) and others.
Though Jha has neither issued a statement on the attack nor lodged a police complaint, the MP Nagar police have detained four people under Section 151 (Arrest to prevent the commission of cognisable offences) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The detained men were identified as Jeevan Sharma, Abhijeet, Deelip and Karan.
Deputy inspector general Irshad Wali told the media that strict action will be taken against the attackers. “Three to four vehicles were damaged and we will identify the people involved in the violence and take action against them,” he said.
Superintendent of police, Bhopal South, Sai Krishna Thota said that some people raised objections and staged a protest against the name of the web series when its shooting was underway at the Old Jail, located in Arera Hills. “Bajrang Dal men alleged that the web series hurts the sentiments of Hindus as it contains some obscene scenes. The protesters also threw ink on Prakash Jha and pelted the sets with stones,” Thota said, adding that “immediately after the incident, the police reached the spot and brought the situation under control”.
Bajrang Dal’s state convener Sushil Surhele said that the organisation will not allow the shooting of Ashram in Bhopal. “Prakash Jha wrongly portrayed the arrangements in a Hindu ashram in the previous seasons by showing the exploitation of women by gurus. There have been ashrams in Sanatan Dharma for the past thousand years that played an important role in building social values. There is no truth in what has been shown in this web series,” he told reporters.
“Will Jha dare to make such a web series on other religions,” Surhele asked. “We blackened the face of Prakash Jha and are searching for Bobby Deol, who should learn from his elder brother Sunny Deol (actor and BJP MP), who has played roles in patriotic movies,” he added.
Coming down heavily on Mishra for indirectly backing the attackers, CPI(M) leader Jaswinder Singh issued a press release: “The home minister, who has sworn an oath on the Constitution is making a mockery of it by supporting the attackers and pressuring the filmmaker to bend. His statement is not only adding fuel to the fire but also encouraging fringe elements to attack anyone. The diktat on showing the script to the administration before shooting the series is a serious attack on freedom of speech and expression.”
Despite repeated attempts, Town inspector of MP Nagar police station Sudhir Arjariya did not respond to the calls.
(With PTI inputs).