Published: 22nd August 2019
After UoH blames students for 'provoking' arrests, Anand Patwardhan demands screening of Ram Ke Naam at their biggest venue
The University claimed they encouraged healthy debate and discourse and only called the police because the students were 'heckling' the security staff
The University of Hyderabad released a statement explaining the incident involving the police arresting students for screening the documentary Ram Ke Naam on campus. The administration also sent in this explanation to the director of the documentary, Anand Patwardhan, who said that if the administration did want to make amends, that they could do so by organising a screening of the film in the 'largest suitable venue' on campus.
In their statement, UoH had said that they wanted to 'clear the air' about the film screening. The administration said that had been aware that this was a National Award-winning documentary and that it was also broadcast on Doordarshan — all the points that Patwardhan had made on his FB page after the arrests happened. "As a matter of fact, this was screened several times in the past on our campus, both as public screenings as well as in classrooms for academic discussions. On some of those occasions, the filmmaker also visited the campus and interacted with students during screenings," the varsity said.
The release said that the University had reviewed that day's developments and found that the students had been denied permission to screen the film in some places since they cannot be given for events by student organisations. "Subsequently, the students seem to have tried to screen the film in one of the lecture halls of a department, whose administrators were given to believe that this was being done by students of their own department. This was when the University security tried to convey to the students that they had no permission to use the space for the event," they said. The administration alleges that soon after, the students were 'apparently agitated' and began to heckle and abuse the security staff. The security staff were worried that the situation would spin out of control and thus called the police for support.
The administration claims that the students were detained but that they had informed the police that they did not want to press any charges. They go on to state that it brings them no joy to see students being detained by the police 'even if temporarily'. "There are robust internal mechanisms, including negotiations and dialogues initiated by the DSW’s (Dean, Student Welfare) Office and campus security to deal with minor scuffles and protests by students. It is only under extreme provocation and apprehension of disturbance to peace on campus that the administration has had to resort to calling the police," the administration explained in their release.
UoH also claimed in their statement that they were a campus that encourages and welcomes healthy debate, dialogue and discourse but the student organisation have to follow the correct process of seeking permission for their events.
While applauding the University for clarifying that they also felt that the police action was excessive and unwarranted, Patwardhan reminded the administration that unlike what they had claimed he had not been invited to the campus since 2014. "Please remind me on which occasion after 2014 did the HCU administration officially invite me to screen my films on campus? I did come to HCU campus and screened Jai Bhim Comrade soon after Rohith Vemula was mistreated into committing suicide. This open air screening was organized, not officially, but by the Joint Action Committee of students who had united to fight for justice for Rohith Vemula," the documentary filmmaker said.
If the administration did want to make amends for what happened, Patwardhan said that UoH administration should organise an official screening of Ram Ke Naam in their auditorium or largest suitable venue, "Invite me to come and discuss the film with your staff and students. Let all contending voices be heard in a dignified debate. Let democracy grow through healthy discussions," he told the administration.