A poster of the film “Kaali” directed by Leena Manimekalai that depicts a woman dressed up as Hindu Goddess Kaali smoking a cigarette with a flag of the LGBT community in the background has created an international uproar.
Manimekalai, who is pursuing her masters in fine arts in film at Ontario’s York University, has been savagely attacked on social media by Hindus offended by the poster.
The movie is being screened at a festival at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum.
The Indian High Commission in Ottawa issued a press statement on Monday, saying: “We have received complaints from leaders of the Hindu community in Canada about disrespectful depiction of Hindu Gods on the poster of a film showcased as part of the ‘Under the Tent’ project at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto.
“Our Consulate General in Toronto has conveyed these concerns to the organizers of the event.
“We are also informed that several Hindu groups have approached authorities in Canada to take action.
“We urge the Canadian authorities and the event organizers to withdraw all such provocative material.”
THE Aga Khan Museum later in a statement said that it “deeply regrets that one of the 18 short videos from ‘Under the Tent’ and its accompanying social media post have inadvertently caused offence to members of the Hindu and other faith communities.”
It explained: “Toronto Metropolitan University brought together works from students of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, each student exploring their individual sense of belonging as part of Canadian multiculturalism for the project ‘Under the Tent.’
“Toronto Metropolitan University’s project presentation was hosted once at the Aga Khan Museum on July 2, 2022 in the context of the Museum’s mission to foster intercultural understanding and dialogue through the arts. Respect for diverse religious expressions and faith communities forms an integral part of that mission. The presentation is no longer being shown at the Museum.”
MISSISSAUGA-BASED Hindu Federation President Pandit Roopnauth Sharma said in a statement: “Canada is home to 1.7 million Hindus from different parts of the world who share same values, traditions and culture. Hindu Federation represents the Hindus in Canada and stands by their sentiments and values.
“The recent incident of show casing the documentary film ‘Kaali’ by Leena Manimekalai as part of the ‘Under the Tent’ project in Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, has sparked an outrage amongst the Hindu community. The poster of the documentary depicts a Hindu deity smoking a cigarette with a flag representing the LGBTQ community flowing in the background.
“Hindus revere and worship their deities and see them in a form that is a result of more than 5000 years of uninterrupted tradition. The depiction is demeaning, defaming one of the most revered deities of Hinduism. Hurting the religious sentiments of a peaceful community under the guise of art and freedom of expression is not acceptable.
“The Hindu Federation strongly condemns the incident and demands an unconditional apology from those responsible for this incident, as listed above. We further welcome dialogue with the related parties Leena Manimekalai, CERC (Canada Excellence Research Chairs), organizers of Under the Tent project and Management of Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, so that we may establish protocol for consultation on such matters and avoid future situations of this nature.”
IANS reports from New Delhi:
The Delhi Police have registered a First Information Report (FIR) against Director Leena Manimekalai, a day after a complaint was lodged against her over a controversial poster of her new documentary, a senior police official said on Tuesday.
Delhi Police spokesperson Suman Nalwa told IANS that a complaint was received by the police regarding the poster on social media of Goddess Kaali shown smoking a cigarette.
“From the contents of the complaint and the alleged post, prima facie, an offence under section 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code was made out,” the police official said.
The FIR has been registered at the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police’s Special Cell police station. “Investigation in the matter has been taken up,” the official added.
The complaint against Director Leena Manimekalai was lodged by a Delhi-based lawyer and activist Vineet Jindal on Monday. “The Director has hurt my religious sentiments by showing Goddess Kaali smoking which is highly objectionable and not acceptable in any manner,” Jindal told IANS.
“This deliberate and malicious act, intended to outrage religious feelings of Hindu community through highly objectionable video and photo from her Twitter account by the accused which is well circulated in social media and all public platforms is an offence under section 295A, 298, 505, 67 I.T Act and 34 IPC and therefore penal action should be taken against the accused,” the complaint filed with the Cyber Cell of Delhi Police read.
The lawyer said that the objectionable video clip and photo must be banned and removed from the Internet immediately considering the defamatory impact and outrage it would cause to Hindus as it has disparaged the religious beliefs of a community.