Sena vs govt over SRK film

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By SAMYABRATA RAY GOSWAMI
  • Published 10.02.10
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Johar in Mumbai on Tuesday. (PTI)

Mumbai, Feb. 9: My Name is Khan has set the stage for a showdown between the Maharashtra government and the Shiv Sena with the state home ministry throwing an unparalleled security ring around theatres scheduled to screen the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer.

The government has called in five battalions of the State Reserve Police Force to protect 63 cinemas in the city that will screen the film directed by Karan Johar from this Friday.

Leave of all police officials in the city have been cancelled for the February 13-14 weekend, a decision few recalled having ever been taken as part of security for a film.

As many as 380 Sena activists have been arrested. The government has withdrawn security to some Sena leaders and warned Uddhav Thackeray of similar action, prompting him to say he was “returning” his guards.

“We have assured all concerned adequate security for the film. There will be special security at the offices of the producers, exhibitors and distributors. We will also give personal security to some key people like Shah Rukh Khan and his family, Karan Johar, etc.,” said Himangshu Roy, joint commissioner of police.

The officer’s assurance followed a meeting between Johar, who led a team of the film’s exhibitors and distributors, and police commissioner D. Sivanandan, who promised all security.

As if on cue, the Sena, which had asked Shah Rukh to apologise for saying that Pakistani players ought to have had a place in the IPL, threw an open dare at the government.

Sena sympathisers broke into three theatres in suburban Mumbai’s Mulund and Ghatkopar areas and damaged property inside R-Mall multiplex and two other single-screen cinemas.

All the theatres were in the middle of taking advance bookings for the film. As news spread, several single-screen theatres and some multiplexes stopped taking advance bookings. Most multiplexes are taking bookings via the Internet.

The government responded by ordering the arrests, though a section in the state’s ruling Congress-NCP coalition fears the move will help the Sena politically.

Sources said the Congress’s decision to clamp security on a war-footing was also intended at sending a signal to its ally, the NCP, whose boss Sharad Pawar had visited Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Sunday with a request to allow Australians to take part in the IPL.

Pawar’s move is being seen in Congress circles as a snub to Rahul Gandhi, who had defied Sena protests on Friday and criss-crossed Mumbai on a local train.