Punjab appears divided in the ongoing row over the censor board’s major cuts in “Udta Punjab” and its decision that all references to the state be deleted from the Bollywood film.
Congress leader and former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has condemned the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) for raising major objections to “Udta Punjab”.
“It has clearly been done at the behest of the Akali-BJP government in Punjab. The movie has been banned with a guilty conscience,” Amarinder Singh said.
He accused union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who also heads the information and broadcasting ministry (which controls CBFC), “for being a party to this authoritarian decision” though the movie depicts the “harsh reality of Punjab”.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is defensive on the issue.
Referring to objections raised by the CBFC on “Udta Punjab”, Badal quipped: “How the state government could be held responsible for it when the CBFC is exclusively under the control of the government of India?”
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has emerged as a major player in Punjab, too maintains that the Akali Dal and BJP are to blame for the problems “Udta Punjab” — which depicts the drug menace in the state — is facing.
CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani, at the centre of the controversy, alleged on Wednesday that he had heard that the film was funded by the AAP.
This drew angry reaction from AAP leaders including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Punjab goes for assembly elections in less than nine months from now.
The controversy over the film has attracted varied opinion from people, especially on the social media.
Akshay Ahuja, an engineer-entrepreneur, posted on his Facebook account: “I am from Punjab and I am not a drug addict.”
Radical Sikh organization Dal Khalsa slammed the censor board for its objections to “Udta Punjab”.
“The film was about rising drug problem that Punjab was facing… It’s a harsh reality,” its leader Kanwar Pal Singh said, blaming the Akalis and the BJP for the controversy.
Amarinder Singh, who has taken a religious vow to eradicate the drugs problem from Punjab within four weeks if the Congress was voted to power, said there was no need to delete references to Punjab or other places.
“It is like taking the soul out of the film’s body,” he said.
The Shiromani Akali Dal, which has been in power in Punjab since 2007 in alliance with the BJP, and its leadership has been accused by critics of patronizing the multi-million dollar drugs mafia in the state.
AAP leaders Sanjay Singh and Bhagwant Mann have openly accused Punjab’s powerful Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia, the younger brother of union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and brother-in-law of Punjab’s powerful Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, of promoting those behind the drugs racket in Punjab.
Though Majithia has filed defamation cases against them in courts in Ludhiana and Amritsar, they are repeating the accusations almost daily and are even taunting Majithia to get them arrested.
Akali Dal leaders told IANS the party leadership was “feeling uncomfortable” with the way the drugs abuse of Punjab was being projected and this could harm the party in assembly polls next year.
Various studies in recent years have indicated that substance abuse, including drugs, is rampant across Punjab, especially in rural areas. The extent of the substance abuse is put by some surveys at over 70 per cent out of Punjab’s 2.8 crore population.