NEW DELHI, January 25 (Portal) – Indian students said they would re-screen a BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the government dismissed as propaganda after a campus screening on Tuesday was disrupted by a power outage and intimidation by opponents was.
The Indian Students’ Union (SFI) plans to screen the documentary “India: The Modi Question” in every Indian state, its secretary-general told Portal on Wednesday.
More than a dozen students were arrested by police at a university in New Delhi on Wednesday ahead of the screening, broadcaster NDTV reported.
Modi’s government has labeled the documentary, which questions his leadership during the riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, as a “propaganda piece” and blocked its broadcast. It has also banned clip sharing on social media in India.
Modi was the prime minister of the western state during the violence that killed about 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. Human rights activists put the number of victims at around 2,500.
“You will not stop the voice of dissent,” said Mayukh Biswas, general secretary of the SFI, the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxists).
A warning was issued Tuesday by Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi against unauthorized student gatherings ahead of SFI’s scheduled screening of the BBC documentary on Wednesday night, NDTV reported.
According to the broadcaster, the police arrested more than a dozen students there about an hour before the screening.
Delhi police did not immediately confirm whether students were arrested, but said there was a heavy deployment of police and security forces in riot gear at the university.
The operation was “to maintain law and order” both because of the demonstration and because of India’s Republic Day on January 26, police said.
Violent clashes erupted at the university in December 2019 between protesters, including students, and police over a new law barring Muslims in countries neighboring India from obtaining citizenship.
Hundreds of students watched the BBC documentary on mobile phones and laptops at Jawaharlal Nehru University on Tuesday after power was cut on campus, student leader Aishe Ghosh said.
The university had threatened disciplinary action if the documentary was shown.
“It was obviously the government that shut off the power,” Ghosh said. “We encourage universities across the country to hold screenings as an act of resistance to this censorship,” Ghosh added.
The media coordinator of the university administration did not comment on the power failure on campus.
Ghosh said members of a right-wing student group threw bricks at students hoping to see the documentary, injuring several, and students complained to police.
A spokesman for the far-right student group did not respond to a message asking for comment.
A police spokesman did not immediately respond to inquiries.
Violence in Gujarat in 2002 erupted after a suspected Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, sparking one of the worst religious bloodsheds in independent India.
At least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in retaliatory attacks across Gujarat over the days as crowds roamed the streets targeting the minority group.
Critics accuse Modi of not protecting Muslims. Modi denies the allegations and an investigation ordered by the Supreme Court found no evidence of criminal prosecution. A petition questioning his exoneration was dismissed last year.
The BBC said the documentary was “rigorously researched” and featured a wide range of voices and opinions, including responses from figures in Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Edited by Robert Birsel
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