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Screening of BBC Documentary: Tensions Grip University Campuses

Four Jamia students arrested, JNU students allege stone-throwing by ABVP members

Ghazala Ahmad l Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Tensions gripped several university campuses across the country over the screening of a BBC documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and revealing his alleged role in the anti-Muslim Gujarat riots.

Four students of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) were detained by Delhi Police ahead of the documentary screening scheduled for Wednesday evening at MCRC lawns of the university.

Police and paramilitary forces in large numbers were also deployed outside at Gate No. 7 of the campus ahead of the screening.

Speaking to Clarion India, a student of JMI said the movie was to be screened at 6 PM. “There is a lot of police force outside the campus and some goons can also be seen roaming outside. Why the government is stopping us from watching the film?” he asked.

“A large number of students had already started gathering on the lawn to watch the documentary before the police picked up four students. We were looking forward to the screening,” another student said. 

The university administration earlier said no permission has been granted for the screening of the documentary and it will not be allowed on the campus.

The arrested JMI students are members of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI). The organisation said it will stage a protest against the “illegal detention” of the students.

SFI’s JMI chapter took it to Twitter to inform that the students were detained without any prior notice. “Their phones were snatched away and their whereabouts are not known”.

SFI named the arrested students as Azeez (SFI JMI secretariat), Nivedya (SFI south area Vice President), Abhiram and Thejas.

On Tuesday night, the screening of the film led to chaos on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus, too. The screening was organized by the students’ union.

A power cut on the campus and an Internet shutdown were allegedly done by the university administration in an attempt to stop the screening of the documentary.

Despite the power cut and Internet shutdown, students watched the film on their mobile phones. JNUSU President Aishe Ghosh declared the act a symbol of protest.

Students also alleged that they were pelted with stones leaving several of them injured.

“The ABVP (students wing of the ruling BJP) goons rocked the campus with violence as we were set to screen the film,” Qasim Dargahi, research scholar and an activist of All India Students’ Association (AISA), told Clarion India. 

“The administration did it best to stop us from watching the BBC documentary, from power cut to Internet suspension, but their efforts didn’t stop us from watching the truth, that is the BBC documentary,” he said.

Earlier, the University of Hyderabad students also screened the first part of the BBC documentary and they are likely to show the second episode too. This is despite the university authorities maintaining that the film was screened “without any permission” from the university. 

The administration has also initiated a probe and asked for a report from the security department.

According to students, ABVP members created a ruckus while they were watching the film at the shopping complex on the north campus.

The screening of the documentary is taking place despite the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s January 21 gag order. The ministry has also directed Youtube and Twitter to censor tweets carrying documentary links.

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