CHANDIGARH — Haryana is on high alert today as the controversial film 'Messenger of God (MSG)', the debut movie of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of the religious sect Dera Sacha Sauda, hits theatres. Radical Sikh groups have been protesting against the film and demanding a ban on its release saying that Singh has projected himself as messenger of God in the movie.
Police force has been deployed at "vulnerable" points as groups opposed to the sect and the film had indulged in arson earlier in parts of Punjab and Haryana.
"The entire state is on alert. We have strengthened our police force and deployed it at vulnerable points (to maintain law and order)," Haryana Police, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Law and Order, Muhammad Akil told PTI today when asked about the measures being taken in the wake of release of the movie.
Asserting that the situation so far is normal, Akil, however, said that the police was taking precautionary measures to avoid any untoward incident. "As per inputs received so far, the situation is normal," he said.
The Chandigarh Tribune reported that in Karnal, cinema halls have put the screening of the film on hold. Security forces have been deployed near theatres Karnal where students have protested against the film.
According to the Tribune report, INLD workers have sat on a dharna demanding a ban on the movie in Karnal and protested against the screening in Kurukshetra.
The film was screened in Sirsa amidst tight security with the police rounding up several INLD supporters as they were proceeding towards the cinema hall to oppose the screening.
Prohibitory orders have been imposed in Kurukshetra around 200 meter radius of cinema hall where the movie is to be screened. The district authorities have warned of taking action under Section 188 of IPC (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) for violating the prohibitory orders.
District Magistrate CG Rajini Kaanthan yesterday held a meeting of the representatives of various Sikh groups who are opposing the release and Dera followers here.
Stating that the Censor board has issued certificate for release of the movie on February 13, Kaanthan appealed to both the warring groups not to indulge in any violence and sought their support to maintain law and order.
The Kurukshetra administration asked people not to come in groups to watch the movie and treat this movie as like any other movie.
When contacted, Dera spokesman Aditya Insan told PTI that the movie would be released tomorrow in more than 2,500-3,000 screens across the country.
"All the state governments, including Haryana, have been requested to exempt the movie, 'MSG-The Messenger', from entertainment tax," he said. Punjab government had denied permission last month to screen the film, apprehending law and order problem.
The movie's proposed release had sparked off protests in various parts of Punjab and Haryana earlier.
Haryana Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee (HSGMC) had earlier said that it would oppose the release of the movie, though in peaceful manner. It had even appealed to Haryana government and owners of multiplexes and cinema houses to not to screen the film.
However, Dera Sacha Sauda had denied all the allegations.
In the movie, the Dera head is playing a lead role. He had even sung and composed seven songs. The movie is directed, written and edited by Dera chief himself. Meanwhile, Haryana DGP Yashpal Singhal today appealed to the people to maintain law and order.
He said that Section 144 (prohibiting assembly of five or more persons) has also been imposed in several districts and additional force has been deployed to maintain peace.
The DGP issued directions to all the senior police officials including IGs, DIGs and SPs to step up security around cinema halls in their respective areas for peaceful screening of the movie, according to a statement issued here.
The police also appealed to people to avoid any public address during the screening of the movie which could vitiate the peaceful atmosphere.
The Haryana police chief also asked people to take prior permission from police for holding any 'dharna', march etc. The police also asked people not to believe in rumours to avoid any untoward incident. "If they come to know about any untoward incident or has some doubt about it, they should immediately inform the nearby police station," he said.
Earlier, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had declined to stay the screening of movie. The division bench of Justices S K Mittal and Deepak Sibal fixed March 3 as the next date of hearing on the petition, filed by Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (HSGPC) president Jagdish Singh Jhinda.
The court declined to give a stay on the petition, seeking the quashing of the order of Mumbai-based Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) which had set aside the ban imposed by the Central Board of Film Certification on public exhibition of ‘Messenger of God’.
“Our petition was filed against the FCAT order for the release of the movie itself which is being illegal and against the provisions of the Cinematography Act,” said the petitioner’s counsel Loveleen Dhaliwal while demanding that the FCAT order be quashed.
She further said that the release of the movie could create law and order problem.
A Mohali-based Kalgidhar Sevak Jatha had already filed a petition against the movie in the High Court and its hearing was also fixed for March 3.
Here's the trailer of MSG:
Stills from the film: