Anti- Pathaan protests rocked different parts of Madhya Pradesh

Debjit Mukherjee: Indore Police on Wednesday registered a first information report (FIR) against “unidentified persons” after a group of men – said to be Bajrang Dal activists protesting against the screening of the film Pathaan – allegedly raised objectionable slogans against Prophet Muhammad.

Even as anti- Pathaan protests rocked different parts of Madhya Pradesh, the one outside Kastur Deluxe theatre in Indore took a communal turn. A video in which protesters are purportedly raising objectionable remarks against the Prophet, as well as another controversial slogan that was alleged to have sparked the 2020 Delhi riots, has surfaced.

A police complaint has alleged that the protest was led by Tannu Sharma, the divisional coordinator of Bajrang Dal (complainants have mentioned him in the FIR, but he has not been named as the accused by the police). Mr. Sharma however said that their objection was to actor Shah Rukh Khan, who plays the titular protagonist in the film, and they would even assault people if need be to deter them from watching the film.

“We will request people and make other efforts [to stop them from watching the film] and make them understand. If they don’t listen, we will hit them too,” he said, even as he was cheered by fellow protesters, some of them carrying batons.

The slogans, however, sparked a counter-protest, with a group of Muslim residents around the area staging protests outside at least two police stations –Chandan Nagar and Chhatripura — and demanding the strictest possible action against those who raised the slogans.

“We are not bothered about the protest against the film of Shah Rukh Khan or any other Muslim movie hero for that matter, but every now and then, Bajrang Dal activists and similar elements create a bad atmosphere in the city with such acts. In the recent past, too, they had raised slogans in Chandan Nagar. Today, while protesting against Pathaan, they raised objectionable slogans against Prophet Sahab and we have gathered to protest against it,” said Rafik Khan, a local politician, who was leading the protesters.

A police complaint was submitted by community leader Sayyed Sabir Ali that named Mr. Sharma as the accused. It said the statements have hurt religious sentiments and have created an atmosphere of disharmony between two communities. Based on it, the police registered a case under Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, at the Chhatripura Police Station but haven’t named anyone till Wednesday evening.

An unverified Facebook profile identifies Mr. Sharma as an office-bearer of the Bajrang Dal and contains posts on communally sensitive issues such as “Love Jihad”.

“We will identify people after viewing the footage and all of them visible will be named. We will act against those raising the slogans and those provoking them,” said a police officer.

Meanwhile, anti- Pathaan protests continued in other cities such as Bhopal and Gwalior, besides other cinema halls in Indore, even forcing cancellation of shows at some places.