The University of Hyderabad student group that screened the first part of the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots wants to show the second episode as well even as the first screening inside the campus snowballed into a controversy.
Meanwhile, the university administration, which has sought a report from the security department, stated that the episode of ‘India: The Modi Question’ was screened ‘without prior notice or permission’.
A group of students under the banner of Fraternity Movement, University of Hyderabad had organised a screening and discussion on the first episode of the BBC documentary series on January 21 at the shopping complex on the north campus. At least seventy to eighty students were present. According to the student’s union members, students affiliated with RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had also visited the place.
However, on a complaint from the ABVP that “the broadcasting of this documentary was banned recently by the government of India”, the varsity administration initiated a probe.
While there is no ban on the documentary series, the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued directions on January 21 to block the first episode of the BBC documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’ on YouTube and asked Twitter to take down tweets which have the link.
Stating that the screening was held “without any prior notice or permission”, a statement from Registrar of UoH Dr Devesh Nigam said, “On receiving the information, the security team and the Dean, Students’ Welfare rushed to the venue and requested the organizers to stop the screening of the documentary. However, the organizers did not accede to this request and continued the screening of the documentary in presence of few students.”
The statement added, “As per the prescribed procedure, any student organization desiring to hold an event on the University Campus is required to obtain prior permission from the authority through the Dean, Students’ Welfare. In this case, no prior permission was obtained which is a violation of the existing norms. Though the event passed off peacefully, the University has asked for the report on the event for taking further necessary action.”
UoH Students’ Union general secretary Gopi Swamy said while permission is obtained from the administration for holding events at designated halls and auditoriums, there is no practice of seeking permission for holding an event in an open space. Abhishek Nandan, president of the students’ union, said they stood for freedom of speech and expression and would stand with the students who screened the documentary if the varsity decided to take any action.
At the time of the screening of the documentary, there was neither any objection nor any tension following the event, according to Gopi Swamy.
When contacted, DCP (Madhapur) K Shilpavalli said no complaint has been received by the police and that they would examine the facts in case of a complaint.
Meanwhile, the Fraternity Movement issued a note stating that the unilateral directive issued by the Centre to certain online platforms to block the availability of the documentary is condemnable. It added it was a common practice in UoH to conduct the screenings and discussions in public places and that they believed in the necessity to cultivate the culture of dissent in the campus spaces.
“As an unbanned documentary, we will check the possibility to screen the second part with the support of other students’ organisations and the students’ community on the campus,” the note from the group’s president Afsal Hussain and general secretary Haifa Banna said.