With democracy under threat at UoH, students to hold March to protest police action, admin crackdown

Students at UoH were detained and later released for protesting against a movie screening being halted by the administration and the police on campus on August 20
Image for representational purpose only
Image for representational purpose only

Six students affiliated to left-wing student organisations at the University of Hyderabad were detained at the campus on Tuesday over the screening of a controversial documentary and this incident has led to a call for a fresh protest to save democracy on campus.

"We are conducting a Save Campus Democracy March tonight at 8.30 pm at the UoH campus. It will include students from different students' organisations. We had been protesting after the screening of Ram Ke Naam was stalled and we will continue to do so as long the administration and authorities try to silence us. We went to the police station to speak to them and request them to release our fellow classmates, but they went on threatening the students saying that they study in a public institution and despite that, they are speaking up against the government," says Anupama S Krishnan, a student and an active member of the SFI.

The six students belonging to All India Students Association (AISA) and the Students' Federation of India (SFI) were taken into custody and the documentary screening at the Sociology department's lecture hall was stalled by police who stormed the campus at around 3 pm on Tuesday. The students were let off by the police after three to four hours of scrutiny at the station.

One of the students who were detained during the protest told Edex that police forcefully came in and took the students onto their van without any discussion. "Along with five of my fellow mates, they took me inside the van when we tried to engage with them in conversation. They threatened to charge us under IPC 20 and also intimidated us by saying that you do not study, you are only at the varsity to protest and speak up against the government. We were not released for four hours, when two of our faculty members came and spoke to them. This is not the first and only incident in the past few days. The admin and police have been trying to silence the students, stop public lectures or programmes organised by us for the past four to five days. Recently, a public talk by a renowned professor was stopped in between when the registrar himself came down and put a halt to it in front of 200-300 students." 

This is not an isolated incident, "Then there was the instance of when we had organised a protest for article 370 being revoked, and the authorities applied section 144 inside the campus. Typically, the administration approves the topics of programmes beforehand and the movie screening was also approved. However, whatever is happening inside the campus is a clear indication of us being forcefully silenced. We as students have a duty to question, to debate and to discuss, by doing those things we are not doing anything illegal or unlawful. The institute is getting the eminence tag but this is what is going on inside the campus. We are not criminals, then why are we being treated this way? This, however, does not deter our spirit in any way, we will keep fighting," says Arif Ahammed, who is pursuing his PhD in Indian Diaspora under the School of Social Sciences at UoH.

The police had reportedly received a complaint from the university administration that there was no requisite permission accorded to conduct a screening. The students, however, claimed that they had sought and were accorded permission by the UoH administration to screen the movie Ram Ke Naam by Anand Patwardhan, but later police were called in to stall the screening.

A statement issued by the AISA said that though initially written permission had been granted by the Sociology department, they were not allowed to screen the movie in the new seminar hall in the social sciences building on the grounds that the hall would not be given to any students organisation or affiliated students' wings. Later, students were told that they could screen it the film in the first year Sociology lecture hall. "The policemen came in brandishing their authority, confiscated the laptop of a student. When students protested, a few of them were detained," read the AISA statement.

Meanwhile, despite several attempts to reach out to the varsity officials for their comment on the issue, they remained unavailable.

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