With the opposition accusing the ruling SAD-BJP combine in Punjab of using influence to "censor" 'Udta Punjab', a Hindi film that delves into the drug menace in the state, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Thursday said the government has "nothing to do" with the film and that it is a matter between the producers and the censor board. He also hit out at the opposition, asking it to stop spreading "canards" about a "government ban" on the release of the film which allegedly shows Punjabis in poor light.
"For us, the film in question is one of the countless such films produced for commercial reasons. Whether to allow its release or not is an issue between the producers and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The government has nothing to do with it," Sukhbir said here in a statement.
"It is for the censor board to see whether the film meets or violates the fundamental principles of balance between freedom of expression on one hand and deliberately or inadvertently blackening the face of a state, a community or a faith on the other," he added.
Sukhbir said he would not "pre-judge" the issue before the film is out in the market.
"We are in favour of anything that lends social, psychological or thematic support to our all-out war on drugs. For all I know, the film in question may even be an attempt to correct the distorted picture of Punjab as a drug haven painted by some opportunistic non-Punjabi persons, political parties and leaders who are using abusive language against the bravest and most competent and patriotic people of Punjab. If so, we will welcome the film and even support it and similar films aimed at image correction of Punjabis," he said.
The Deputy Chief Minister said it is "absurd" to suggest a governmental intervention at this stage.
"Neither Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, nor I, nor anyone else at political or administrative level in the government or the party has seen the film so far. So, how can we take a call on whether or not the film will affect the peaceful atmosphere in the state by hurting the sentiments of the people through a vulgar and humiliating presentation of present day Punjab and Punjabis," said Sukhbir who is also the president of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
The Deputy Chief Minister said he is not surprised at the strong reaction to alleged insult to Punjab in the film by blackening the face of every Punjabi, adding, "if true, it is most painful and disgraceful."
Sukhbir rubbished the "propaganda" against Punjab as the "land of terrorists and drug addicts", adding that those who indulge in this kind of a propaganda need to educate themselves.
"Punjabis are leading the rest of the country in every sphere, occupying top positions in various fields such as science, technology, education, IT, nano-technology, agriculture, industry etc. Punjabis dominate the social and political life across the world. Naturally, they react strongly to any demonisation of their character, such as calling them terrorists, rapists, drug addicts etc.," he said, adding that whether 'Udta Punjab" indulges in the "demonisation" will be considered only after it has been cleared by the censor board.
However, he said he hoped what he had read about the content of the film was wrong.
"I merely read about the contents of the film in a national daily and like every other proud Punjabi, was deeply pained by this description of the people of my state. I know every Punjabi considers themselves children of our great gurus. We may have a few problems but Punjabis know better than anybody else in the world how to face and defeat challenges. Drugs were one such challenge before. In the last few years, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has launched the Punjab government's war on drugs," he said.