Rebellious Indian students hold more screenings of BBC documentary about Modi

Rebellious Indian students hold more screenings of BBC documentary about Modi

NEW DELHI, Jan. 25 (Reuters) – Indian students said they would again show a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the government has dismissed as propaganda after a campus screening was disrupted by a power cut and harassment by opponents on Tuesday.

The Students’ Federation of India (SFI) plans to screen the documentary “India: The Modi Question” in every Indian state, its general secretary told Reuters on Wednesday.

More than a dozen students were detained by police at a New Delhi university on Wednesday ahead of the screening, broadcaster NDTV reported.

Modi’s government has labeled the documentary, which questions his leadership during riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, as a “propaganda piece” and blocked it from broadcasting. It has also blocked the sharing of clips on social media in India.

Modi was prime minister of the western state during the violence that killed about 1,000 people, most of them Muslims. Human rights activists estimate the number at some 2,500.

“They will not stop the voice of dissent,” said Mayukh Biswas, general secretary of the SFI, the student arm of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University on Tuesday issued a warning against unapproved student gatherings ahead of SFI’s scheduled screening of the BBC documentary on Wednesday night, NDTV reported.

According to the broadcaster, the police detained more than a dozen students there about an hour before the screening.

Delhi police did not immediately confirm whether students were detained but said there was a heavy deployment of police and security forces in riot control gear at the university.

The commitment was “to maintain law and order” both because of the screening and India’s Republic Day on January 26, police said.

In December 2019, the university saw violent clashes between protesters, including students, and police over a new law banning Muslims from acquiring citizenship in countries neighboring India.

On Tuesday, hundreds of students watched the BBC documentary on mobile phones and laptops at Jawaharlal Nehru University after the power went out on campus, student leader Aishe Ghosh said.

The university had threatened disciplinary action if the documentary was shown.

“Obviously it was the government that cut the power,” Ghosh said. “We are encouraging campuses 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 respond to the question about the power outage on campus.

Ghosh said members of a right-wing student group threw rocks at students hoping to see the documentary, hurting several, and students had complained to the police.

A spokesman for the right-wing student group did not respond to a message asking for comment.

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to questions.

Violence in Gujarat erupted in 2002 after a suspected Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, sparking one of the worst outbreaks of religious carnage in independent India.

At least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in retaliatory attacks in Gujarat during days when crowds roamed the streets targeting the minority group.

Critics accuse Modi of failing to protect Muslims. Modi denies the allegations and an inquiry commissioned by the Supreme Court has found no evidence to prosecute him. A petition challenging his acquittal was rejected last year.

The BBC has said the documentary has been “rigorously researched” and contains a wide range of voices and opinions, including reactions from people from Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party.

Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi and Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Edited by Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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