Central Board of Film Certification Chairperson Prasoon Joshi "will not be attending" the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, where he was scheduled to address a session on Sunday. The development comes in the wake of repeated threats to Joshi by the Sri Rajput Karni Sena, which, in gross defiance of the law, has gone on a rampage after the censor board cleared Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Padmaavat" for release.
"Will not be attending JLF this year and must say will miss sharing great moments with literature and poetry lovers. I am doing this so that the dignity of the event does not get compromised or discomfort caused either to the organisers, fellow writers or the attendees. And also so that the lovers of literature get to focus on creativity and not controversy," Joshi said in a statement released by the JLF organisers on Saturday morning.
Joshi was scheduled to participate in a session titled "Main aur Woh: Conversations with Myself".
"The issue around the film "Padmaavat" -- I did my job and sincerely took a sensitive and balanced call. As I have said earlier, certification was done with due processes, incorporating valid suggestions whilst staying mindful to the concerns of the society as well as to the canvas of cinema. It's sad that we are not relying on genuine peaceful dialogue. It's important that we keep mutual trust and faith in each other and our institutions so that the issues don't reach this far," Joshi added in the statement.
A noted lyricist, screenwriter and poet, Joshi has received the Filmfare Best Lyricist Award three times, in 2007 and 2008 and again in 2014 ("Bhaag Milkha Bhaag"). He has also received the National Film Award for Best Lyrics twice, for his work in "Taare Zameen Par"(2007), and "Chittagong" (2013). He was awarded the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian award, in 2015, for his contribution in the field of Arts, Literature and Advertising.
This is not the first time that a speaker has decided to stay away from the festival in view of threats by fringe groups. In 2012, acclaimed novelist Salman Rushdie had not attended the festival in view of security threats against him as hundreds of Muslim activists appeared in Diggi Palace, stating that they would not let Rushdie appear nor allow a video footage to be played.
The organisers as well as the Jaipur police had made appropriate arrangements for security and had earlier assured that nothing untoward would take place at the festival.