An Assamese television show has been banned for two months after allegations that it promoted the so-called "love jihad" and belittled Hindu and Assam cultures. The local authorities ordered the ban on the show - Begum Jaan -- on August 24 for outraging religious sentiments. The entertainment channel Rengoni which aired the weekly serial, however, said all it promoted was humanity beyond religion.
The TV show - which follows the journey of a Hindu girl who fights against the society with help from a Muslim man - has been embroiled in controversies ever since it was aired in July this year. Hindu Jagran Manch, a body linked to the ruling BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and other groups, have been objecting to the telecast of the serial. There have been protests in the streets and on social media demanding a complete ban. It was the Content Monitory committee constituted under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 that recommended the ban.
"This was discussed at length at the district level monitoring committee that comprises of 10 members. It was decided to ban it for two months because there are apprehensions that there may be a breach of peace; and prima facie, there are allegations that it hurts religious sentiments of a section of the society," Guwahati Police commissioner MP Gupta told NDTV.
There are allegations that the Guwahati Police have not taken action on the complaint filed by actor Preety Kongkona - the protagonist in Begum Jaan - who was harassed by trolls on social media. Since the show aired in July, she says, she and her family have been called names, bullied and even received rape threats on the Internet.
"I had faith on authorities and law. It is a kind of verbal rape what they did on social media. Nowadays it has become a trend to abuse and troll artists on social media. It is very painful," she told NDTV.
The police said they are still investigating her complaint. "On her complaint, we have lodged a case in Dispur police station and investigation is on. Law will take its course," Mr Gupta said.
The Guwahati unit of Hindu Jagaran Manch that led the tirade against Begum Jaan say they would 'protests' each time any serial or movie would 'try to portray' Hindu society in a demeaning way.
"Begum Jaan does not depict the ethos of the Hindu society or the Assamese society in correct sense. It belittles the Brahmins. In the Assamese society, there is love jihad already and this serial can trigger it further," Mrinal Kumar Lashkar, the state president of the outfit told NDTV.
The channel claims that their serial was in no way derogatory to any religion or community.
"It has nothing to do with love jihad. It is about a Hindu girl who falls into trouble in a Muslim locality and saved by a Muslim man. Our legal team is on it. This is the first time here that such an action has been taken. We don't see anything which is derogatory to any religion in this serial," said Sanjive Narain, CMD of Rengoni TV.