After an attempted screening on Jawaharlal Nehru University's campus was met by stone pelting and administrative intervention, controversy around the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tenure after his re-election in 2019 lingers on.
The Centre on Saturday used emergency powers to block the series' airing in India, claiming it was "undermining the sovereignty and integrity of India." Links to the documentary shared on Twitter and clips published on YouTube and Vimeo were deleted and removed.
Left student bodies plan to screen BBC documentary on PM in Kolkata
Left student bodies of West Bengal have planned to screen the controversial BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the campuses of at least two universities of Kolkata.
The Student Federation of India (SFI) will show the documentary at Jadavpur University on Thursday and at Presidency University the day after, the state organisation’s assistant secretary Subhajit Sarkar said.
“The documentary will be screened via a projector. We are yet to get permission from the university authorities. We will carry on with the screening even if we do not get it,” Sarkar said. “We hope that many of the general students, including those who don’t support us, will come and watch it. We want people to join us in discussion and debate about the film,” he said.
Four detained outside Jamia University
Four students have been detained for allegedly creating a ruckus outside Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi over the screening.
University administration had said that they would not allow any unauthorised gathering on campus after the Students Federation of India had announced the screening.
BBC airs second half of "India: The Modi Question" series in the UK
BBC news on Tuesday aired the second and final episode of the controversial documentary in the UK. According to their website
, the episode looks into the "troubled relationship" between Modi's government and the Muslim minority in India. The hour-long episode touches upon the removal of Kashmir's special status under Article 370 and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
"Modi and his government reject any suggestion that their policies reflect any prejudice towards Muslims, but these policies have been repeatedly criticised by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International," the description reads.
JNU screening aftermath
On Wednesday, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan called JNU students "miscreants" for trying to "break the country" by hosting a screening of the documentary and called for police action against them.
"The tukde tukde gang, they are trying to create trouble," he told reports.
A Tuesday night screening of the BBC documentary by the JNU
Student Union was met by stone pelting from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad members, students allege. The ABVP outfit denied such allegations.
Students also said that the college administration cut off power and internet to stop the event, forcing them to watch the series on their phones. This came after students had earlier been advised against the screening and were warned of "strict disciplinary action."
Fresh political reactions
Senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday called the ban an overreaction and said it was an unnecessary move by the Centre.
"How can a documentary affect sovereignty of our nation? The ban is an overreaction and unnecessary by Centre. We're a strong country, we could've ignored this. Our sovereignty and national security isn't something that can be easily affected by a documentary," Tharoor told reporters.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan of the Bharatiya Janata Party also spoke to reporters and questioned the timing of the documentary's release by the BBC
"This is the time India has assumed G20 presidency. Why has this particular time been chosen to bring out this scurrilous material? You cannot ignore these things and particularly when it is coming from a source who ruled over us for over 200 years," Khan said.
Contention over the documentary has caused a sharp split in discourse with opposition leaders like Congress' Rahul Gandhi and Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra on one side calling out the Modi
government for its "raging censorship." The Centre, however, maintains that the decision to block the documentary was not about censorship but about "keeping order."
Earlier this week, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak jumped to the defence of his Indian counterpart, telling his opposition that he disagreed with the BBC documentary's "characterisation" of Modi.
BJP protesters in Kerala booked by police
Kerala police on Wednesday registered a case against BJP workers who protested at Poojapura and Manaveeyam street in Thiruvananthapuram for unlawful assembly and traffic disruption.
They had gathered there to protest Tuesday screenings of the documentary by the Youth Congress and DYFI.
First Published: Jan 25, 2023 3:13 PM IST