Students Detained, Riot Police Over BBC Film Screening

SFI hosted a screening of the BBC documentary at Jamia Millia Islamia.

New Delhi:

More than a dozen students, including members of a left-wing group, were detained by police and classes were suspended at Delhi’s prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia university on Wednesday because of planned screenings. BBC’s controversial documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi tonight. Student activists, waving banners and raising slogans protesting the persecution, were dragged away by police.

Police in blue riot gear and trucks with water cannons approached the university gates in southeastern Delhi. Only students who come to take the exam are allowed in and others are denied. In an order issued Tuesday, authorities in Jamia said they would not allow any unauthorized gatherings on campus after the Students Federation of India (SFI), the student wing of the Communist Party property of India (Marxist), announced the screening on Facebook.

The documentary is based on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure as Gujarat Minister during the 2002 riots, which caused a storm with the government clamping down on the film and demanding that broadcast companies social media removed links to it. The opposition has criticized the move as blatant censorship.

A similar film screening organized by several students at Jawaharlal Nehru University last night got into trouble, with both internet and electricity turned off in the student union office. Instead, a crowd of hundreds gathered outside in the dark to watch the documentary on their phone or laptop screens, and the evening ended with a protest march. JNU authorities have warned of disciplinary action if the documentary is shown, saying the action could disturb peace and harmony on campus.

“The students didn’t do anything illegal. The documentary was not officially banned. Dissent against the government is a constitutional right. The very essence of democracy is being denied in higher education, where we have to teach Varkey Parakkal, an SFI leader, to tell NDTV that students question, criticize, dissent , that is showing a very dangerous trend in what is supposed to be the largest democracy in the world.

Prime Minister Modi’s government has labeled the two-part documentary series ‘India: The Question of Modi’ as a ‘propaganda piece’. He was cleared of any wrongdoing thanks to investigations into the riots in Gujarat. Last year, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal to exonerate him in one of the murder-related cases.

More than 1,000 people were killed in three-day riots in Gujarat in 2002, and the state police face serious charges for not doing enough to stop the riots that began after a train carriage Pilgrim passenger train burned in Godhra, killing 59 people.


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