Censor Board chief Leela Samson on Thursday resigned over Dera Sachcha Sauda chief Baba Ram Rahim's controversial film Messenger of God. The controversy deepened after nine other members followed Samson and quit on Saturday.
Who is Leela Samson?
Leela Samson is the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification who announced her resignation as chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification on Thursday.
Samson earlier served as a director of Kalakshetra from April 2005 to April 2012 and chairperson of Sangeet Natak Academy from August 2010 to October 2014.
Leela Samson is a Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer, instructor and writer.
She has taught Bharatanatyam at Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra in Delhi for many years.
Among the many honours conferred on her, Samson was awarded the Padma Shri by the President of India in recognition of her contribution to the art of Bharata Natyam as well as the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Bharatanatyam (1999-2000), given by Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Why has she resigned?
As per reports, Samson's decision to resign came after the ‘Messenger of God' featuring Dera Saccha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in lead role was cleared by Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT).
Speaking about the clearance to the controversial film by FCAT, Samson said "It is a mockery of Central Board of Film Certification. My resignation is final. Have informed the (I&B) Secretary".
In a statement on her resignation, Samson mentioned "interference, coercion and corruption of panel members and officers of the organisation appointed by the Ministry" as reasons for her resignation.
She said that she has had 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.
What is Leela Samson saying?
She has described as "mockery" the green signal to the film, which features the Dera chief as a swashbuckling hero fighting social evils and performing miracles like a god.
"Recent cases of interference in the working of the (board) by the ministry, through an 'additional charge' CEO, and corrupt panel members has caused a degradation of values that the members of (the Censor Board) and Chairperson stood for," Samson has alleged.
She also said, "the term of all the members and the chairperson of the Censor Board are over. But since the new government failed to appoint a new Board and Chairperson, a few were given extension and asked to carry on till the procedure was completed."
What is other members' opinion?
The name includes Ira Bhaskar, Lora Prabhu, Pankaj Sharma, Rajeev Masand, TG Thyagarajan, Mamang Dai and Shubhra Gupta.
They have reportedly justified Samson's resignation and have cited 'interference' from the ministry.
What is the government saying?
Minister of State in the Information and Broadcasting ministry Rajyavardhan Rathore said the ministry has always "kept a hands away distance" from the Censor Board decisions.
"There was no government interference in clearing the film Messenger of God", Rathore said.
Hitting out at Samson, Rathore said, "The Censor Board is an independent body, it needs to behave like one."
He also said that the decision of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) over the film should be final and accepted by all.
"The Chairperson talks about coercion, we as the government would like to see that SMS, or a letter where she or any other member has been coerced. Then we would take appropriate action," he said.
"My officers tell me that in last few months she only attended office once," Rathore added.
What is opposition saying?
"If she is saying this then an inquiry must be ordered, marks great failure of administration," said Abhishek Manu Singhvi, senior Congress leader.
Union Home Minstry's concern over the movie
The Union Home Ministry has been concerned that the release of the film may evoke protests from some quarters as certain Sikh organisations have been opposing the movie.
The Home Ministry had sent an advisory to states that "various Sikh organisations and individuals are opposing the movie on the ground that its release would disturb the communal harmony and law and order.
They also opined that glorification of Dera Sachcha Sauda chief, facing serious criminal cases, should not be allowed.
The Home Ministry said tension between DSS followers and Sikhs always remain a potential flash point in view of ongoing rivalry between Sikhs and the Dera followers.