Anti-Padmaavat protests in Ahmedabad, 48 detained; violence caught on camera
Anti-Padmaavati protests rocked Ahmedabad yesteday, just days before the release of the controversial Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. Violent protestors, opposed to the release of Padmaavat, targetted multiplexes and cinema halls in the city.
In Ahmedabad, vehicles, mostly two-wheelers, were set on fire and stones were pelted at cinema halls as scores of people ran amok in Gujarat's financial capital.
The city's top cop said today that 48 people have been arrested over last evening's violence and that the key conspirators behind the rioting have been identified.
The Shri Rajput Karni Sena was quick to deny involvement in the violent protests.
The release of Padmaavat has been fiercely opposed by the Karni Sena and a few other Rajput groups, whose contention is that the film portrays Rajput queen Padmini in a negative manner.
The film's release hung in balance until as yesterday, when the Supreme Court reiterated its earlier order revoking the bans imposed on the Deepika Padukone-starrer in a few states.
However, in Ahmedabad, police was caught unawares as protesters targeted multiplexes, many located on the SG Highway that connects the city to capital Gandhinagar, news agency IANS reported.
The surprise was due to the fact that most cinema halls in Gujarat, including multiplexes in Ahmedabad, had already declared they would not screen Padmaavat, IANS reported.
The Karni Sena denied involvement in the protests with the group's state head offering to resign if any link was established between his organisation and the violent protesters. "I will resign if there is any link (of violence) established with our organisation," Raj Shekhavat, the Gujarat Rajput Karni Sena chief was quoted as saying by IANS.
According to a report in local daily Divya Bhaskar, the violence followed a candlelight march that began at Ahmedabad's Iskon temple.
More than 50 vehicles were burnt and the area most affected in the violence was the city's Drive In Road, where protesters targeted Himalaya Mall.
CCTV camera footage, accessed by India Today (see below), showed one of the protesters outside Himalaya Mall calmly walking up to parked motorbikes and lighting them on fire.
The Ahmedabad police resorted to using tear gas and even opened fire in the air in order to control the crowd.
Gujarat: A mall and adjacent shops vandalised, vehicles torched in protest against #Padmaavat in Ahmedabad's Memnagar, police at the spot. Mall Manager Rakesh Mehta says, 'we had put up boards saying we won't screen the film still the mall was attacked by a horde of men'. pic.twitter.com/VYh0ddz7Oj— ANI (@ANI) January 23, 2018
Today, Ahmedabad commissioner of police AK Singh said cops detained 48 people and charged under acts of rioting. "Key conspirators [have been] identified after interrogation, 4 FIRs [have been] registered," Singh was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Meanwhile, in Gurgaon, authorities have invoked Indian Penal Code's Section 144 to prohibit the presence of people carrying "fire arms and others articles capable of causing injury" near cinema screens. Sloganeering and placing placards within 200 metres of cinema halls or multiplexes too has been banned.
Padmaavat, which also stars Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor apart from Padukone, releases tomorrow.
(This story has been updated to include the Ahmedabad police commissioner's comments from today)