Indian students defied orders, screened banned documentary on mobile phones

The Indian government used ’emergency’ legislation to block a BBC documentary that blamed Narendra Modi for the 2002 riots, in which more than 2,000 people were killed.

The Students' Federation of India (SFI) plans to screen the documentary,

The Students’ Federation of India (SFI) plans to screen the documentary, “India: The Modi Question”, in all states of India. (Francis Mascarenhas / Reuters Archive)

Students in India say they will re-screen a BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the government dismissed as propaganda after Tuesday’s campus inspection was marred by blackouts and threats from rivals.

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

Modi’s government labeled the film, which questioned his leadership during riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, as a “propaganda piece” and blocked its broadcast and banned the sharing of any clips on social media in India.

Modi was the chief minister of the western province during the violence in which more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

“The imposition of undeclared emergency continues…but it will not stop the voice of opposition,” said Mayukh Biswas, general secretary of SFI, the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Checking cell phones

At Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, hundreds of students watched the film on mobile phones and laptops on Tuesday after the school’s power was cut ahead of a scheduled examination, student leader Aishe Ghosh said.

The university has threatened that it will be disciplined if this film is shown, saying that it did not give permission for a play that could disturb the peace and harmony in the school.

“It is clear that the administration has cut off the power,” said Ghosh. “We are encouraging campuses across the country to hold screens as an act of resistance to this experiment,” Ghosh said.

The media coordinator in charge of the university did not comment when asked about the power outage at the institution.

Ghosh said that members of the right-wing student group threw bricks at the students in the hope that they would watch the documentary and hurt many, and the students complained to the police.

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

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to questions.

The 2002 Gujarat violence erupted after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, killing 59. Later mobs raided Muslim neighborhoods.

Modi has dismissed allegations that he did not do enough to stop the riots and was acquitted in 2012 following an inquiry overseen by the Supreme Court.

An appeal against his conviction was dismissed last year.

The BBC said the documentary was “heavily researched” and included a variety of voices and opinions, including responses from members of Modi’s Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.

READ MORE: India bans BBC documentary investigating PM Modi’s role in Gujarat riots

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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