‘MSG: Messenger of God’ releases in Haryana amid protests
The controversial film MSG: The Messenger, made by and starring head of Dera Sacha Sauda sect Gurmeet Ram Rahim, released to packed houses in Haryana and Chandigarh on Friday even as Sikh organisations and the Indian National Lok Dal protested against it.
While Punjab had banned the movie in view of the protests by radical Sikh organisations, Haryana had adopted a wait and watch policy and decided to allow its release.
In Chandigarh, the film has been released in four cinema halls while in neighbouring Panchkula it has opened in one hall. With a large number of Dera followers booking in advance, tickets were sold out at several halls for the entire next week. Sources said about 11,000 tickets for 73 shows had been booked in advance.
Dera spokesperson Dr. Aditya Insaan said the release of the movie in 3,000 theatres across India was “a victory for rule of law”. He said the movie was only about the scourge of drugs which had impacted youth in a number of States, including Punjab.
Dr. Insaan said the movie had been cleared by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal in mid-January and subsequently the Punjab and Haryana High Court had twice declined to stay its release which showed that it did not contain any offensive content.
In fact, it was only on Thursday that the High Court had refrained from staying the movie on an appeal by the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee chief Jagdish Singh Jhinda. The Sikh organisations have been staunch opponents of the Dera head claiming that he had hurt their sentiments by dressing up as Guru Gobind Singh once.
As for the Indian National Lok Dal, the party has been campaigning against the release of the movie in Haryana as it feels that that the Dera head spoilt its chances of a win in the Haryana Assembly elections in October 2014 by giving a call to his followers on election eve to support the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Dera had made a similar call on the eve of Delhi Assembly elections too.
On Friday, Digvijay Chautala, president of Indian National Students Organisation, the student wing of INLD, led a protest against the movie in Sirsa. He and his supporters were detained by the police while they were on their way from Chautala House to cinema halls where the movie was being screened. Similar protests were also organised by the party in Yamunanagar and Hisar.
The Haryana Police had earlier made stringent security arrangements for the release of the movie. Director General of Police Yashpal Singal had urged the people of the State to maintain law and order and directed all Inspector Generals, Police Commissioners, Superintendents of Police and SHOs to make proper arrangements of security in all cinema halls in their respective districts.
He said additional police personnel have been deployed at all cinema halls.
Mr. Singhal said before carrying out any procession or demonstration, permission of Superintendent of Police or Police Commissioner would be necessary under section 69 of Haryana Police Act 2007 or else action would be taken as per law. He said such processions would only be allowed in a peaceful manner and at prescribed places only.