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On Monday, the Assam police ordered a ban on the airing of a contentious TV serial ‘Begum Jaan’ for a period of two months. The said show was being aired on Rengoni TV since July this year, and was facing massive backlash from Hindutva groups accusing it of promoting love jihad.
In its order, the Assam police informed that the ban was imposed under the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 for outraging the ‘religious sentiments’ of a particular section of the society. The police intervention came after one Gunajit Adhikary and Hindu groups such as All Assam Brahmin Youth Council, United Trust of Assam and Hindu Jagran Manch filed complaints against the Assamese TV show for portraying ‘love jihad’.
Cast and Makers of ‘Begum Jaan’ defend show
According to the Preety Kkongana, the female protagonist in Begum Jaan, the serial is about a troubled Hindu woman who is helped by a Muslim man. Besides, Chairman and MD of AM Channel that controls the operations of Rengoni TV, Sanjive Narain, had dismissed claims of love jihad. He said, “Just because a Muslim boy and Hindu woman are the protagonists of the show, they are saying all this. To further their politics, they are making these allegations…If the court provides respite, we will resume (telecast)”.
Preety Kkongana had also filed case with he police alleging that she was receiving rape and death threats, abuses on social media for appearing in the TV show.
Derogatory portrayal of Hindu society, argues civil society and Hindu organisations
However, the civil society at large and Hindu rights organisations have come forward to express their displeasure regarding the content of the show. In a letter addressed to the Tezpur Sadar Thana, a concerned citizen complained about the derogatory portrayal of Assamese culture and the Hindu religion in ‘Begum Jaan’.
The letter pointed out that the show has tried to legitimise and transmit the ‘epidemic’ of love jihad. “I suspect that the makers of the TV show had received funds to create social unrest. As a citizen, I want the show to be banned and an investigation to be initiated against the director, producer, and writer of the show,” the letter emphasised.
According to the state chief of Hindu Jagran Manch, Mrinal Kumar Lashkar, the show did not depict the Assamese culture and the Hindu society in the right manner. “It belittles the Brahmins, in the Assamese society already love jihad is there and this serial can trigger it more,” he was quoted as saying.
When the show was first aired in July this year, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti ran online campaigns with hashtags such as #BoycottBegumJaan and #BoycottRengoni, demanding a ban on “Begum Jaan’ for allegedly glorifying love jihad.
District-level monitoring committee finds violation of programme code in ‘Begum Jaan’
The Assam police had informed that the complaints against the airing of the show were raised before a district-level monitoring committee. It further stated that the said committee found violation of Programme Code laid under Rule 6 of the Cable Television network Rules of 1994. “The Committee with overwhelming majority has come to a conclusion that the said serial has outraged the religious sentiment of certain section of the society which may lead to breach of peace and tranquillity in the society, unless the telecast of the serial is stopped with immediate effect,” it said in a statement.
Assam Police justifies ban on TV serial
Guwahati Commissioner of Police M P Gupta informed that a show-cause notice has been issued to the makers of Begum Jaan and that they have asked to reply within a month. He emphasised that the temporary ban on the airing of the TV serial was imposed in accordance to Section 19 of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995.
He reiterated that the law provides power to ‘prohibit’ transmission of programmes that are “likely to promote, on grounds of religion, race, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, linguistic or regional groups or castes or communities or which is likely to disturb the public tranquillity.” The makers of the TV show have now decided to move the Court, seeking a repeal of the ban.