The BJP may not have officially criticised the move of using its Uttar Pradesh MLA Nandkishore Gurjar’s picture without his permission in the popular web series Paatal Lok. He is shown standing next to fictional villain Bajpayee – an image that seems to be a rip-off a 2018 photo of Gurjat with UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, but the series’ makers and producers are under increasing attack from different religious and caste quarters as well as leaders of the BJP and its allies.
First, Loni MLA Gurjar, who filed a police complaint against the show’s producer and actor Anushka Sharma. Now, a BJP Delhi leader has also filed a complaint, but with the National Minorities Commission.
Jaspreet Singh Matta, the co-convenor of the Sikh Cell of BJP’s Delhi unit, says he has also spoken to the Commission’s Deputy Chairman Manjit Singh Rai over the matter as it involves “Hurting Religious Sentiment of Hindus and Sikhs” alike. He was referring to a scene in Paatal Lok, where a Sikh man is shown raping a woman while an ‘amritdhari’ Sikh watches as a mute spectator. In Sikhism, Amritdhari Sikhs are baptised and must follow the Rahit Maryada, which is the Sikh code of conduct.
That is not all the trouble Paatal Lok’s producers are staring at. Matta has also filed a police complaint in Delhi’s Mukherjee Nagar police station where he has demanded an FIR against Sharma under sections 153, 295A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code as well as sections of the IT Act. “This content has a potential to disrupt law and order situations all across the country,” he warned.
If two BJP leaders gunning for Anushka Sharma weren’t enough indications that the makers of the web series are staring at a legal tangle and ever-increasing attacks, now BJP’s ally Shiromani Akali Dal too has jumped into the bandwagon. The party’s national spokesman Manjinder S. Sirsa has now urged Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar to intervene.
In a video message, Sirsa demanded that not only should action be initiated against such online platforms that give space for “such shows” to be broadcast but also the concerned web series should be withdrawn “with immediate effect”.
“Sikhs in India and all over the world are angry. If you don’t listen to us, the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara committee will take the legal route,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Loni MLA who originally filed the police complaint has a serious charge to make. He says while his face was used in Paatal Lok, his standing next to a fictional villain Bajpayee who is seen inaugurating a highway, is eerily similar to a 2018 photo where Gurjar is seen standing next to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, cutting a ribbon. He not only made it a case of “attack against Sanatan Dharma” but also termed it “anti-national”.
However, what should worry the makers more is his invocation of an alleged attack on “Gurjars”. Gujjars are a predominant caste in western Uttar Pradesh, being concentrated in areas like Greater Noida, Noida, Ghaziabad, Bijnor, Meerut, Baghpat, Shamli and Saharanpur. They constitute an estimated 7-10 percent of the population in Western UP, that makes them a political capital to reckon with.
While his predominant opposition remains the unauthorised use of his face and a virtual rip-off from a photo with the current UP CM, he has also alleged that the Jats of Punjab, Brahmins and Tyagis too have been wrongfully portrayed and given impetus to caste difference. Together, this caste conglomerate has political power to make themselves heard.
A Chandigarh-based body that goes by the name of “Yuva Gurjar Mahasabha” has written to top police official of Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh demanding Sharma be booked under the stringent National Security Act. Its national chief Lokesh Gurjar complains: “Gurjar community is shown in poor light in the web series ‘Paatal Lok’, where they are shown as robbers. In fact, Tyagis, Brahmins and Jaats too are portrayed in poor light.”
Going on to mention the use of BJP’s Loni MLA’s face as well as distortion of the original photo of Yogi Adityanath, he alleged: “They have tried to malign the image of our Chief Minister and an MLA, through this web series.”
If sources are to be believed, similar complaints from different quarters are only going to increase in the days to come, making the going tougher for Anushka Sharma and team ‘Paatal Lok’. With the matter reaching police, the National Minorities Commission and I&B Ministry and a powerful caste cocktail at play, this is not the last you have heard in this matter.