AHMEDABAD: Hundreds of protesters went on a rampage vandalising malls and torching cars in the Indian city of Ahmedabad in a bid to stop the release of a controversial Bollywood film scheduled for Thursday.
Violence against “Padmaavat”, a film about a mythical Hindu queen, started late Tuesday and went into the night in the main city of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
Several hundred people attacked shops in malls and set alight 50 motorbikes and damaged more than 150 cars across the city, police said.
Gujarat home minister Pradipsinh Jadeja said 10 people were arrested on Tuesday, taking overall detentions caused by the movie to more than 60 in 48 hours.
Police said the names of more than 500 suspects for rioting and unlawful assembly had been registered across Gujarat.
“These are anti-social elements who are attempting to disrupt the peace in the state. They will be dealt with strictly,” Jadeja told journalists.
Threats by Hindu fringe groups against “Padmaavat” have forced police to step up security around cinemas across the country ahead of the release Thursday.
Protesters claim the film falsely depicts a romance between 14th century Hindu queen Padmavati and Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji. The producers deny this and insist the movie portrays her respectfully.
Radical groups have blocked roads, and burned buses and toll booths in recent days in protests against the movie.
A caste-based group, the Rajput Karni Sena, has threatened to attack cinemas showing the film. It was not known if they were linked to the Ahmedabad troubles.
“We have increased deployment near malls and cinema halls. The mob resorted to violence despite the cinema hall owners assuring that they will not screen ‘Padmaavat’,” Ahmedabad police commissioner A.K Singh told media.
The Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh state governments lost a bid on Tuesday to get the country’s Supreme Court to retract its ruling stopping states from banning “Padmaavat”.
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and other states had wanted to halt the release. But the Supreme Court has ruled such action violated creative freedoms.
In January last year Rajput Karni Sena members attacked the film’s director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and vandalised the set during filming in Rajasthan.
The leader of the group also offered 50 million rupees ($769,000) to anyone who “beheaded” lead actress Deepika Padukone or director Bhansali.
The movie stars Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh, the husband of Padmavati, and Ranveer Singh as Khilji who leads an invasion to try to capture the queen.
Protesters maintain it distorts history, even though experts say the queen is a mythical character.
Earlier this month the film censor board cleared “Padmaavat” for release with five changes.