Citing central advisory, Punjab bans ‘MSG’ screening

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Chandigarh: The Punjab government today banned the screening in the state of controversial film “MSG – The Messenger Of God”, which features Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh as the main lead, following a central advisory and intelligence reports that it could lead to tension.

The screening of the film, which is yet to be officially released, has been stopped with immediate effect, a Punjab government spokesman said here.

“The Punjab government today decided to stop with immediate effect the screening of the film ‘MSG…’ in Punjab in view of reports of tensions surrounding its release in some other parts of the country,” he said.

The movie has been in news as it was initially not given a green signal by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) as well as its revising committee. It was then referred to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), which cleared it for release after asking the producers to make minor changes.

This led to CBFC chairperson Leela Samson resigning from the post Thursday night, though she said that her resignation was not linked to the film’s clearance.

The spokesman said that the “government’s decision comes in wake of reports of strong reactions and protests, which even a promotional trailer of the movie has evoked in several parts of the country leading to a serious spill over of the threat of violence in Punjab”.

Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who holds the home portfolio, said central agencies had issued advisories to states “to take necessary steps to prevent any breach of peace/untoward incident/adverse fall out and other law and order problems”.

“The screening of the film is likely to evoke strong emotional reactions leading to public display of conflicting emotions. The government cannot allow the chain of actions and reactions to pose a threat to peace and social harmony of the state,” the spokesman said, quoting the order.

Police and security agencies in Punjab and Haryana were put on alert Friday after protests against the film.

A high-profile premiere was planned for the movie in Gurgaon Friday, and thousands of the sect chief’s fans had gathered at Leisure Valley Ground there to watch a screening, amid protests by the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) workers and the party’s student wing Indian National Student Organisation (INSO) activists. It was later postponed to Sunday.

Protests against the film were witnessed at some places in Haryana and Punjab Friday. Police officials in both states said security agencies were put on alert.

In Punjab, additional security forces were stationed in Amritsar, Bathinda, Ludhiana and other places. Sikh organisations and leaders, including the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, are opposed to the sect and its leader.

Authorities in Haryana put security forces on alert in Sirsa district, where the sect has its headquarters near Sirsa town (275 km from Chandigarh), Gurgaon, Hisar and some other places.

Police detained some INSO activists in Gurgaon as they were protesting against the film.

MSG was earlier scheduled to be released Friday but did not get the CBFC approval in time. On Friday, the film’s producers claimed they have got the required permission from the censor board for the movie’s release.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim told media in Gurgaon Friday that there was nothing objectionable in the film.

He said he did not want to comment about the controversy around the censor board refusing to give clearance to the film and the resignation of Samson.

“There is a move to stop the release of the film. I have no knowledge on why the censor board objected to the film,” he said, adding the film carried a message against social evils like alcoholism, prostitution and drugs and promoted good causes like blood donation and doing voluntary work.

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