Film on assassination of ex-India PM Indira Gandhi to be released amid calls for its ban

This photograph taken on Nov 3, 1984, shows India's then Premier Rajiv Gandhi (second from left), accompanied by his Italian-born wife Sonia (third from left), his daughter Priyanka (centre) and bodyguards as they stand at the cremation site of his m
This photograph taken on Nov 3, 1984, shows India's then Premier Rajiv Gandhi (second from left), accompanied by his Italian-born wife Sonia (third from left), his daughter Priyanka (centre) and bodyguards as they stand at the cremation site of his mother Indira Gandhi in New Delhi. A controversial film on the assassination of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was scheduled for release on Friday amid calls for it to be banned for glorifying her killers. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - A controversial film on the assassination of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was scheduled for release on Friday amid calls for it to be banned for glorifying her killers.

Kaum De Heere, or Diamonds Of The Community tells the story of Mrs Gandhi's Sikh bodyguards, who shot the premier dead in 1984 apparently in revenge for a military operation that killed hundreds of Sikhs.

The youth wing of Mrs Gandhi's Congress party has 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. Mr 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," Mr Chaudhary told AFP.

Mr Chaudhary warned to reporters this week that protests could be staged across Punjab over the film's release.

A Ministry of Information and Broadcasting official told AFP on Thursday it was mulling whether to still allow the film's go ahead in India on Friday as scheduled because of the controversy.

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 Mrs 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 Mrs 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 Mrs 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.

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