The Punjab government on Saturday decided to put a ban on the screening of the controversial movie 'Messenger of God' featuring Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh, in apprehension of breach of peace.
"The Punjab government has decided to stop screening of the movie 'Messenger of God' in the state," Harcharan Bains, Advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister, told PTI.
"The action has been taken following reports of tension after the trailers of the movie became public," he said. Bains said the screening of the movie has been stopped following reports of apprehension of breach of peace.
“The action was also necessitated following Intelligence inputs about breach of peace in case the movie was allowed to be screened in the state," he added. High alerts have been sounded in Punjab and Haryana after protests were staged in Haryana and Delhi against the proposed release of the movie on Sunday.
On Friday, Shiromani Akali Dal, Indian National Lok Dal and Sikh outfits had taken to the streets in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi protesting against the controversial film.
Similar protests were held at Haryana's Hissar and Sirsa, the headquarters of the Dera chief who has been at loggerheads with the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhs.
The film, which was expected to hit theatres on Friday last, had been referred by the Censor Board to FCAT for clearance on January 12. The FCAT has cleared it for screening.
Controversy over the clearance deepened after the resignation of its Chairperson Leela Samson and several other members. The controversial Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, on whom the movie is based, had on Friday claimed at a press conference in Gurgaon in Haryana that the film does not target any religious section.
“I have clearly said that I am just human. The acts portrayed in the movie are simply stunts," he had said, in an apparent rejection of criticism from Sikh groups that he was portraying himself as God and Sikh Guru.
In 2007, clashes had erupted between Sikhs and Dera followers in Bathinda following an advertisement in which Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh allegedly appeared dressed like Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th and last guru of the Sikhs.
The decision to ‘stop screening’ of the film has been taken ‘in view of reports of tensions surrounding its release in some other parts of the country,’ according to an official release.
"The decision has been taken in the larger and crucial interest of preserving peace and social harmony in the state and safeguarding the age-old emotional bonds among people professing different faiths in the state," it said.
"It (the order to stop screening) comes into force with immediate effect and shall apply to all forms of (public and private) exhibition and viewing of the film in the state, including in cinema houses."
The release said the government's decision comes in the 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' and also the advisories issued by Central agencies to take necessary steps to prevent any breach of peace/untoward incident/adverse fall out and other law and order problem.
"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 government is bound by a sacred duty to pre-empt and prevent any such eventuality and to ensure that the hard earned atmosphere of peace and social harmony in the state is preserved at all costs," it added.