The All India Shia Personal Law Board has issued a legal notice to filmmaker Mira Nair, Netflix and others over their portrayal of a 'tazia' in the web series ‘A Suitable Boy’. The notice claims that millions of people's religious sentiments have been hurt badly, and their religious beliefs have been disrespected.
The notice was written by Syed Mohammed Haider Rizvi, the president of the Board's legal cell.
The objection which has been mentioned in the notice is to episode 4 of Season 1. “…at 43:30 minutes…you have desecrated a “Tazia” when you have shown it falling to the ground. This particular scene has not just hurt the sentiments of lakhs of people (belonging to different religions, faiths, beliefs and walks of life) who consider a “ Tazia” to be the most sacrosanct and keep it at the highest pedestal, but has also invoked religious fervour of sorts amongst them,” reads the notice.
“Tazia is a replica of the mausoleum of Imam Hussain … who stared into the eyes of imminent annihilation but refused to bow down to evil and an oppressive ruler Yazid, who in consequence killed him and almost his entire family on the sands of Karbala in Iraq. Imam Hussain, though martyred centuries ago, but his message of peace and humanity still resonates in the hearts and minds of people at large and has been a source of solace and courage during their testing times…,” the notice further stated.
The notice further says that the ‘tazia’ is not just any religious relic, but something so sacred that the whole Taziadar community keeps and guards it with their life until it is laid to rest on the 10th of Moharram or the Chehallum or other days throughout the Muharram mourning period.
While the notice states that the makers of the show do enjoy the Freedom of Speech and Expression, but it also draws attention to Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code. That section of the IPC reads as, “Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings… Whoever, with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”
The notice finally calls for deleting the offensive scene from the web series. Not just that, it also demands the issuing of a public apology for depicting the same. “It is needless to say that any act of yours which is contrary to what has been instructed above would invite initiation of criminal proceedings against you inter-alia under section 295 A Indian Penal Code, besides initiating further suitable action against you, at your risks, costs and consequences throughout,” concludes the notice.
The notification was delivered to Mira Nair, the series' director, and her co-director Shimit Amin. Others who have been mentioned in the notice are the producers, Lydia Dean Pilcher and Aradhana Seth, the distributors BBC studio, Vinyard Films, and Netflix, and finally the ministers Anurag Thakur (Information and Broadcasting) and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (Minority Affairs).
For the unversed, ‘A Suitable Boy’ is an adaptation of writer Vikram Seth's novel, launched on Netflix on July 26, 2020, in Bengali, Hindi, English, and Urdu. Prior to Netflix, it was released on BBC as well.
‘A Suitable Boy’ also sparked a controversy long before its release when Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra had objected to a scene in which two characters kiss inside a temple premise.