Day after JNU chaos, BBC’s Modi documentary screening cancelled at Jamia, students detained

Students said at least eight were detained over the attempted screening.

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A screening of the BBC documentary on the Gujarat riots was cancelled on the Jamia Millia Islamia campus after the university administration allegedly refused permission to student groups, led by the SFI and NSUI, on Wednesday. At least eight students were detained in view of the screening, students told Newslaundry. The Delhi Police, however, refused to clarify the number of detainees. 

This came a day after turmoil on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus over an attempted screening of the documentary – which the Indian government earlier termed “propaganda” and reportedly ordered to be taken down YouTube and Twitter.

NSUI and SFI had earlier planned to screen the documentary, India: The Modi Question, at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre at 6 pm. “We have decided to cancel the screening in view of the detention of our friends. We will decide the next course of action after they are released,” said Liya Shareef, executive member of Fraternity Movement, one of the organisers.

Chief proctor Atiqur Rahman told Newslaundry that the university can’t allow sit-ins and protests on the campus. “We only want a peaceful academic environment in the university.”

In a press release, the university administration said that “no meeting/gathering of students shall be allowed in any part of the campus, including lawns and gates without prior permission of the competent authority, failing which strict disciplinary action shall be taken against the organisers”.

The administration asked students to leave the central library after 5 pm in view of the Republic Day celebrations. The library normally remains open till midnight. Some students, who took the semester examinations, said they faced inconvenience as their entry and exit were restricted.

‘Documentary not in line with narrative’

An MCRC student was detained while he was speaking with the media. His friends were seen running after the police vehicle that carried him to a police station.

Police and paramilitary forces, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the movement of students amid a traffic snarl on the Jamia road. 

Maaz, a second-year LLB student, said, “The administration has no right to disallow the screening. Whenever students gather, even if it is a small event, police come here. You can see the number of policemen who are stationed here.” He argued the documentary has been rejected because it’s “not in line with the government’s narrative and agenda”.

Another student, Abdussamad, said that people should be allowed to watch the documentary. “People who don’t like it should not watch it. Here, the police and administration are pressuring us into not screening it.”

Student leader Liya Shareef said the administration keeps coming up with new rules to stop students from gathering on campus. “The administration’s move violates our fundamental right... The documentary documents the truth about the riots and the government wants to hide it.”

Journalism student Nishant Mishra disagreed. “I think, from the security point of view, students should follow the administration’s guidelines.”

Last night, approximately 12 km away, JNU had borne witness to ugly scenes. The power was snapped just before the screening and about 300 students watched the documentary instead on their laptops and phones. In this darkness, stones were pelted from the other side of the road; JNU students’ union leader Aishe Ghosh told Newslaundry “members of the ABVP” – the student wing of the BJP – were behind the attack.

A little past midnight, the students marched to Vasant Kunj police station to file an FIR. Newslaundry was at JNU last night. Watch our video to know what happened.

Update at 9.15 pm, Jan 25: This report and its headline have been updated with more details about the cancellation of the screening.

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