Republic Day is a celebration of the Constitution of India. For that reason it was the “President’s Day” as he/she is at the pinnacle of the constitutional order ~ August 15 was the Prime Minister’s Day ~ until a self-glorifying Indira Gandhi hijacked public attention in 1972 by introducing the ceremony at the makeshift Amar Jawan war memorial after the liberation of Bangladesh. Sadly, there was a shadow over the festivity this year despite a galaxy of Asean leaders being present to witness a unique manifestation of national pride ~ military, culture and economic.

That shadow will even diminish some of the impact the Prime Minister made at Davos a few days back because there can be camouflaging the grim reality that the core values enshrined in the Constitution are being brazenly defied ~ witness the violent, socially-regressive and highly despicable “trailer” to the release of Padmaavat. The Asean leaders will not be oblivious to what was splashed across front pages of major newspapers on the eve of Republic Day, for it conveyed a grim message that the country was in a socio-cultural tailspin.

Despite warnings from the Supreme Court so-called fringe elements had occupied centre-stage, with the administration in several parts of north India turning a blind eye to hooligans defying judicial authority. Thereby ridiculing the theory that the “state” is Constitutionally-required to protect the life and property of the citizen. Comparisons are ever odious, but this collapse of the administrative machinery triggers recall of the nightmare that horrified the Capital in 1984 and Gujarat in 2002. Only those grossly insensitive to what the Constitution guarantees the citizen will cite death rolls etc to debunk the comparison. The “state” has abdicated its duty for political expediency.

The nation has been subjected to violent protests in the past too, but seldom before have sectarian rowdies been permitted the free run that the newspapers have recorded ~ little need to re-list the acts of shame that includes burning of buses, threats of physical disfiguration, and have left movie exhibitors no choice but to “bend”. For a lethal combination of the silence of the top government leaders, and overt condoning of the defiance of the law by the lower level political leadership has reduced the nation to a sorry pass.

This sparks fears of worse to come when Padmaavat does make it to the screen in more mature parts of the country. To identify the political forces calling the shots in the violence-encouraged regions would be stating the obvious. And magnify the sorry spectacle of a strong Central government (in terms of numbers in the Lok Sabha) exhibiting a lack of courage, allowing the orders of the apex court to be treated with ominous contempt. Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his team set out to make a “classic” ~ they have come up with a film that has rattled the Republic.