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Jo Bole So Nihaal: A Chronology of Events


Outlook, May 23, 2005

Photo: A scene from the film 'Jo Bole So Nihaal'

While the controversy over the Sunny Deol starrer Jo Bole So Nihaal had a horrific fallout last night in the form of the twin blasts at the two cinema complexes, where it was being screened, in New Delhi which claimed an innocent life and left over 70 injured, it is still not clear whether the perpetrators of the blasts were motivated by a view to disrupt the screening of the film or whether it was just a ploy to spread terror with an intent to point the finger of suspicion at the protesting Sikh groups.

It was after a gap of eight years that Delhi was rocked by a string of blasts on May 22, Sunday. Though no outfit has claimed responsibility and the Delhi Police's anti-terrorist wing's Special Cell is investigating the incidents. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (S.G.P.C.), the supreme body managing Sikh shrines in the country, on Monday alleged the twin blasts were a 'conspiracy to defame Sikhs.'

A chronological look at the events so far.

May 13

  • Jo Bole So Nihaal released in theatres.

    May 15

  • Following an Akal Takht order, the S.G.P.C. forms a 15-member panel to review the objections raised against the film. The S.G.P.C. had earlier asked Central Board of Film Certification to impose a blanket ban on the release. It alleged that the film insulted sensibilities of the Sikhs.

  • I.P.S. Chadha, the producer, agrees to a special screening for the S.G.P.C. 'We are ready to organise a special show for the S.G.P.C. delegation and although we have already removed all scenes objected to by the Akal Takht's delegation, we will entertain any objection of the S.G.P.C.' Chadha claims there is nothing in the movie that goes against the sentiments of Sikhs and Sikhism.

  • Five Sikh organizations announce their action programme and resolve to stop the screening in case the Punjab government did not do so by May 19. Activists of the Shiromani Akali Dal (A), Dal Khalsa, Shiromani Khalsa Panchayat, Khalra Mission Committee and Sikh Students Federation blame the Akal Takht jathedar, Gyani Joginder Singh Vedanti, for allegedly conniving with the distributors of the film. Ludhiana traders had released cell-phone recordings of the jathedar in which he is heard giving his assent to the film screenings. The jathedar denies the reports.

  • The main thrust of those protesting is that since the film is not religious then why was the title a holy slogan of the Sikh prayer. Another aspect that came up for criticism was glorification of the Punjab Police.

    May 17

  • The Shiromani Akali Dal demands an immediate ban saying the film had 'misused' the Sikh community slogan. 'The producer of the film has misused the holy Sikh community slogan (Bole So Nihaal),' says S.A.D. chief Parkash Singh Badal.

  • Sikh protestors in Kanpur stage a demonstration in front of a city cinema hall and tear posters of the film.

  • The Kashi Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee flays the film for 'hurting the religious sentiments of the Sikh community by 'loosely' invoking its slogan.'

    May 19

    May 20

  • Within hours of the S.G.P.C. demanding a ban, distributors withdraw the movie from theatres across Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

    May 22

  • Explosions in two cinema halls, just a few minutes and five kilometres apart, leave one dead and 70 injured. Following the blasts, Delhi and adjoining states placed on red alert.

  • Co-producer of the movie, Vashu Bhagnani, calls an urgent meeting of producers to discuss the issue. Two halls in Mumbai and Vadodara withdraw screening of the film.

  • S.G.P.C. president Bibi Jagir Kaur expresses shock and describes it as 'highly unfortunate.' 'We had alerted the state administration and the government should have taken preventive steps.'

  • S.A.D. general secretary Daljit Singh Cheema condemns the blasts as 'unfortunate,' adding 'The government should have taken preventive steps in view of the protests against the film.'

  • Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee chief Paramjit Singh Sarna says 'Our members had also seen the movie and they did not find anything controversial in it except the name, which was a religious slogan being used. We also did not receive a single complaint from any Sikh in the Capital relating to the movie. These blasts in no way show the protests against the movie. The intelligence agencies should fully probe who was behind the attacks. From our side we fully condemn the blast.'

    May 23

  • The Punjab and Haryana High Court declines to stay the screening of the film on a petition filed by a member of the S.G.P.C. claiming it was 'damaging Sikh psyche.' The Bench posts the matter for July 7.

  • Home Minister Shivraj Patil asks the Delhi Police to remain 'extra vigilant.' 'Yesterday had its own significance since the U.P.A. government had assumed office on this very day a year ago and such occasions are used by undesirable elements to create law and order problems.' The cabinet meeting called to discuss the blasts also ends up recommending dissolution of the Bihar assembly.

  • Screening of the film stopped in Chennai, Lucknow, West Bengal and Uttaranchal, though most halls in Mumbai continue with shows.

  • S.G.P.C. chief Bibi Jagir Kaur demands an 'impartial' inquiry and 'strongly condemns the inhuman blasts which were an attempt to show the peace loving Sikh community in bad light.' She slams the Delhi government for the 'security lapse.'