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Row over 'MSG' snowballs; After Leela Samson, another censor board member quits

Controversy over clearance to 'Messenger of God' snowballed on Friday with another censor board member resigning in support of its chief Leela Samson and protests being staged in Haryana and Delhi

New Delhi/Mumbai:  The controversy over the clearance to the film 'Messenger of God' snowballed on Friday with another censor board member resigning in support of its Chairperson Leela Samson as government rejected allegations of "coercion" and "interference" in its functioning.

A high alert has been sounded in Punjab and Haryana as protests were staged in Haryana and Delhi against the proposed release of the movie on Sunday.


Rapid Action Force conduct flag march in markets in the wake of controversial movie 'Messenger of God' featuring Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in Amritsar on Friday. Pic/PTI

The controversial Dera Saccha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, on whom the movie is based, claimed at a press conference in Gurgaon in Haryana where it was to be premiered today, that it does not target any religious section.

"I have clearly said that I am just human. The acts portrayed in the movie are simply stunts," he said in an apparent rejection of criticism from Sikh groups that he was portraying himself as God and Sikh Guru.

About the release on January 18, he said, "we have not finalised anything. There are still meetings going on about the possibility of releasing within such a short time."

The clearance by the Appellate Film Certification Tribunal created turbulence in Delhi when Ira Bhaskar, a member of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), decided to resign in solidarity with Samson, who quit on Thursday night.

Samson had resigned after learning that the Tribunal had cleared the movie for release even though the CBFC had withheld it.

Bhaskar, a professor of cinema studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University, said she will send in her resignation by tonight.

"I have decided to resign by tonight. My resignation has to do with Leelaji's decision to step down. We were working together and as a group we had discussed about resigning earlier but we held on as she attempted to help the ministry in running the board. But things were clearly not in order. There was no meeting in the past one year though it was mandatory for board members to meet every three months. The last meeting was in January 2014. The censor board CEO said there were no funds to hold the meetings so the board is clearly not required," Bhaskar said.

Leela SamsonLeela Samson

Samson, who headed the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), a statutory body under the Information and Broadcasting ministry, since 2011, resigned amid controversy surrounding the overnight clearance of controversial film "Messenger of God" featuring Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

Asked why she decided to quit, Samson did not specifically refer to the reported clearance to the film but cited alleged "interference, coercion and corruption of panel members and officers of the organisation who are appointed by the ministry and having to manage an organisation whose Board has not met for over nine months as the ministry had 'no funds' to permit the meeting of members."

"The term of all members and the chairperson is over. But, since the new government failed to appoint a new board and chairperson, a few were given extensions and asked to carry on till this procedure was completed.

"However, recent cases of interference in the working of the CBFC by the ministry, through an 'additional charge' CEO and corrupt panel members has caused a degradation of those values that the members of this Board of CBFC and chairperson stood for," Samson added.

It is also learnt that several other board members are likely to resign very soon.

(With inputs from agencies)

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