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Serial ‘Killer’

A TV serial gets pulled off air in Assam, an actress gets trolled with rape/death threats? Why? Because the right wing saw ‘love jehad’ in a story of a Muslim man and Hindu woman.

Serial ‘Killer’
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A TV serial which depicts the story of a Muslim man helping a Hindu girl in distress was pulled off air in Assam for allegedly hurting religious sentiments, after the Hindu right-wing saw a ‘love jihad’ conspiracy in the soap. The producers of the serial, Begum Jaan, has been asked by Assam Police to justify the storyline and why it should not be permanently stalled.

Hindu right-wing groups use the term ‘love jihad’ to denote an alleged conspiracy by Muslims to woo and marry Hindu girls and then convert them to Islam.

Guwahati police chief Munna Prasad Gupta announced the ban on August 24 after a government panel that regulate television content came to “the conclusion the said serial has outraged the religious sentiments of certain sections of the society which may lead to breach of peace and tranquillity of  society (sic)...”.

The serial was aired on the Assamese-language entertainment channel Rengoni in July and ran into trouble after a few episodes when right-wing groups such as the Hindu Jagaran Manch and the All Assam Brahmin Youth Council, besides individuals, lodged separate complaints with the monitoring committee.

A social media tirade against the serial followed, with the protagonist, actress Preety Kkongana, trolled relentlessly.She even got rape and death threats. She lodged complaints with police over the threats, but the cops haven’t traced the culprits yet. They are looking into the matter—that’s the official line.

“It’s very painful when people react without watching the serial. There is nothing of the so-called love jihad in the script. There is no communal angle in it. On the contrary, it wants to depict how humanity is much bigger than religion,” Kkongana says.

The Hindu right-wing has a different view. Deep Sarkar, a leader of the Hindu Jagaran Manch that led the tirade against the serial, says they would protest every time any TV soap or movie “tries to portray” Hindu society in a demeaning way. “Begum Jaan does not depict the ethos of Hindu or Assamese society in the correct sense. It belittles the Brahmins. We are not against Muslims, but against those who fake their identity to flee away with Hindu girls and force them to change their religion. The serial promotes it,” says Sarkar.

Many, however, criticised the authorities for banning the serial. “I am amazed that Guwahati police, instead of giving protection to the actress, is willing to ban the serial. First, they should arrest those who are threatening her,” says Bobbeeta Sharma, a television personality and Congress leader.

“Assam is traditionally a land of communal harmony. By unnecessarily making hue and cry about a serial, some people with vested interest are perhaps trying to foment trouble. Assamese people need to be more cautious about such elements who are trying to destroy the social fabric of our state and country by creating divide between communities who have been living harmoniously since ages,” she cautions.

The proprietor of the television channel, Sanjive Narain, insists that “there is nothing in the serial which goes against Hindu dharma”.

By Abdul Gani in Guwahati

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