BJP media coordinator offers $1.5 million reward for murder of Bollywood director, actress

Members of Rajput community attend a protest against the release of the upcoming Bollywood movie 'Padmavati' in Mumbai, India, on November 20, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 21 November 2017
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BJP media coordinator offers $1.5 million reward for murder of Bollywood director, actress

NEW DELHI: A senior member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says cinemas will be burned down if the movie “Padmvati” is released.
Suraj Pal Amu, BJP’s media coordinator in the northern state of Haryana, made the threat just a day after he offered a bounty of 100 million rupees ($1.5 million) for "the heads" of the film’s director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and lead actress Deepika Padukone. The party has reportedly asked Amu to issue a public apology for the bounty offer.
“The warrior caste of the country has the strength to burn all the theatres in India if they play the movie,” Amu told Arab News.
“Padmavati” is based on the 16th century Sufi epic poem “Padmavat” — a fictional account of a Rajput Hindu queen who chose to commit "sati," the medieval practice of self-immolation on the funeral pyre of her husband, rather than be taken captive by the Muslim king Allaudin Khilji, who ruled Delhi in the 14th century.
Over the years, perhaps because of the poem’s popularity and constant retelling, it has assumed the aura of factual history for some. And members of the Rajput community are accusing the director of distorting history and showing the community in a bad light. Bhansali denies that is the case.
Rumors of a scene in the film showing the Muslim king dreaming of a romantic tryst with the Hindu queen have enraged many, including Rajput Karni Sena (RKS), a militant fringe caste group, who have called for the film to be banned.
When Arab News contacted Bhansali for comment, he said only that he had nothing to add to what he has already said.
Viacom18 Motion Pictures, the production company behind “Padmavati,” has already postponed its initial release, slated for Dec. 1.
But the Rajput community is asking for the movie to be banned from screening in the country at all.
“The government should not allow the movie to hit the theaters,” said Lokendra Singh Lakvi, a patron of RKS. “We are requesting the Indian prime minister and other chief ministers of the state to ban the movie. Bhansali has a habit of making controversial movies.”
Three BJP-ruled states — Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh — have already announced they have banned the movie for its “distortion of history.”
Political analyst Urmilesh believes the controversy is a “deliberate ploy” that the BJP hopes will deflect attention from the country’s economic struggles, which, as he pointed out, are currently attracting “scathing press” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The crucial Gujarat elections are not far away,” Urmilesh told Arab News. “Modi is cornered there and by polarizing voters (along the) Hindu-Muslim (divide), the BJP wants to play the old game there.”
“Padmavati” has stirred up controversy before. Earlier this year, some members of the RKS invaded the film’s set and assaulted Bhansali.


Maldives’ top court dismisses outgoing president’s petition

Updated 21 October 2018
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Maldives’ top court dismisses outgoing president’s petition

MALE, Maldives: The Maldives’ top court on Sunday dismissed the outgoing president’s petition seeking an annulment of last month’s presidential election result.
The five-member Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the election was conducted within the law. No other details were immediately known.
The Election Commission had declared opposition alliance candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih the winner of the Sept. 23 election against President Yameen Abdul Gayoom.
Yameen’s party challenged the result, alleging vote rigging, fraud and corruption in the election process.
Four of the five members of the Election Commission fled after the election, citing intimidation by Yameen’s supporters.
President-elect Solih’s spokeswoman, Mariya Didi, said “the case was based on conjecture and conspiracy theory.”
“We are pleased that the court ruled unanimously to uphold the will of the people. There is zero evidence that the election was fixed,” Didi said in a tweet.
President Yameen “should do the honorable thing: accept defeat & ensure a smooth transfer of power,” she said.
The Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago nation known for its luxury resorts, became a multiparty democracy in 2008 after decades of autocratic rule. Yameen is accused of rolling back many of the democratic gains.
Solih was chosen as the Maldivian Democratic Party’s presidential candidate at a party congress in July after exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed abandoned plans to run because of legal obstacles.
Nasheed has been sentenced to 13 years in prison, making him ineligible to contest the election. The verdict was widely criticized as politically motivated.
The Supreme Court earlier this year ordered Nasheed’s release and retrial, but the government refused to implement the ruling.
Yameen had expected to contest the election virtually unopposed, with all of his potential opponents either in jail or forced into exile. Following the Supreme Court order to release and retry Nasheed, the government arrested the chief justice and another judge. The remaining three Supreme Court justices then reversed the order.
In the Maldives’ first multiparty election in 2008, Nasheed defeated 30-year autocrat Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Nasheed resigned in 2012 amid public protests over his order to the military to detain a sitting judge. He lost the 2013 election to Gayoom’s half brother, Yameen, who has reversed many of the country’s democratic gains.
Gayoom is now an ally of the pro-Nasheed coalition and was jailed by his half brother.
Yameen’s administration has also jailed his former vice president, two defense ministers, the chief justice and a Supreme Court judge, as well as many other politicians and officials.