Channel NewsAsia

India blocks release of Indira Gandhi assassination film

India's government on Thursday (Aug 21) blocked the release of a controversial film on the assassination of former Indian premier Indira Gandhi after calls grew for it to be banned for glorifying her killers

NEW DELHI: India's government on Thursday (Aug 21) blocked the release of a controversial film on the assassination of former Indian premier Indira Gandhi after calls grew for it to be banned for glorifying her killers. Kaum De Heere, or Diamonds Of The Community, which was scheduled for release on Friday, tells the story of Gandhi's Sikh bodyguards who shot the premier dead in 1984 apparently in revenge for a military operation that killed hundreds of Sikhs.

The government's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) decided to stop the release "because of the law and order situation that might result from the showing of the film", the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported. "We saw the film and decided that it will not be released tomorrow," CBFC Chairperson Leela Samson said after reviewing the movie, according to PTI.

The home ministry had reportedly asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, under which CBFC functions, to review the movie's go-ahead earlier in the day since content was found to be "highly objectionable".

The youth wing of Gandhi's Congress party had written to current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the film portrays the two bodyguards as heroes. "I wrote to the prime minister to stop the release of the film," said Vikramjit Chaudhary, president of the Punjab Pradesh Youth Congress, a local unit of Congress.

Chaudhary said the film sent the wrong signal to young disaffected Sikhs in northern Punjab state where the army's Operation Bluestar was carried out in 1984. "Seventy per cent of our youth is hooked to drugs and a large number of them are unemployed," Chaudhary told AFP. Chaudhary warned reporters this week that protests could be staged across Punjab over the film's release.

According to local media reports, Indian intelligence agencies have issued warnings of potential violence in the country's north. The home ministry said it could not immediately confirm the reports.

Acting on Gandhi's orders in 1984, the army stormed the Sikh religion's holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, searching for militants holed up inside who were fighting for a separate homeland for Sikhs. A few months later in October, two of Gandhi's bodyguards shot her dead, sparking a violent backlash against the Sikh community that left about 3,000 people dead, mostly on the streets of Delhi.

One of the bodyguards, Beant Singh, was killed by police shortly after Gandhi's murder, while the other, Satwant Singh, was later hanged.

Director Ravinder Ravi has defended his film, whose characters speak in Punjabi, saying it had "no heroes or villains". "All that I am doing is telling a human story about two families that is neither political nor aimed at creating trouble," Ravi told The Hindu newspaper on Monday.