Govt-MNS coercing citizen to pay bribe

When a government enters into a deal with a law-breaker and forces a citizen to meet his wrong and illegal demands, the rule of law breaks down and the law of the jungle takes over. That is what happened when Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis mediated between Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and film industry representatives including Karan Johar who has made film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. The MNS threat to disrupt the showing of the film was a challenge to the rule of law which the government is duty-bound to uphold. That duty is part of the state’s contract with the people from which governments derive their power, authority and legitimacy. This contract was not only violated but the citizen was made to pay a price for exercising his freedom guaranteed under the Constitution, and a legally elected government facilitated and underwrote the deal.

Karan Johar has the right to choose any actor for a film he produces, and the pre-Uri or post-Uri situation between India and Pakistan does not make a difference to it. His choice of the actor and his right to exhibit his film in the country is part of his freedom of expression. The people have the right to watch it too. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had, in fact, given an assurance that protection would be given to the film when it was screened. It was jingoism and fake nationalism that characterised the MNS’ threat against the film. The MNS and its parent, the Shiv Sena, have been known for using intimidation, violence and thuggery as political tools. The uneasy relations the BJP has with the Shiv Sena may have prompted the Fadnavis government to ensure that its rival MNS won in this unwholesome game. It may have sent a message to its recalcitrant ally but it is a dangerous game.

The worst part of the deal is that the film maker was made to pay Rs 5 crore to an army fund as penance for engaging a Pakistani artist. This amounts to a bribe or extortion which criminals take to ensure the running of normal businesses. It is like the police telling the trader to pay the protection money to the street thug. The government as an institution doing this was difficult to imagine till now. The claim that the payment was voluntary will not be believed at all. No attempt at justification and whitewashing can hide the sordid act of the government arm-twisting a citizen to pay a bribe to do what he rightfully can. Bringing the army into this political deal was also bad, as some retired personnel have pointed out.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry