Published: 25th January 2023
JNU students allege stone pelting, stage protest during screening of BBC documentary
They claimed that they were attacked when they were watching the documentary on their mobile phones as the screening could not be held
Several students, who gathered at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Students' Union office for a screening of a controversial BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, January 24 claimed the varsity administration cut power and internet to stop the event and staged a protest after stones were thrown on them.
They claimed that they were attacked when they were watching the documentary on their mobile phones as the screening could not be held, as stated in a report by PTI. A few alleged that the attackers were members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a charge the student body denied.
Students marched to police station
Later in the night, raising slogans of "Inqalab Zindabad" and slogans against the JNU administration, the protesting students marched to the Vasant Kunj police station to lodge a complaint against the "stone pelters".
On the power cut at the campus, a JNU administration official, requesting anonymity told PTI, "There is a major (power) line fault at the university. We are looking into it. The engineering department is saying it will be resolved at the earliest." There was no immediate official response from the JNU administration to the allegations and claims of the students.
The administration had on Monday, January 23, in an advisory, said that the union had not taken its permission for the event and it should be cancelled, warning of strict disciplinary action. However, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU), earlier in the day, in a statement had said that there is no intention to create any form of disharmony through the screening of the documentary or movie.
Clarification regarding prior permission
It also sought clarification from the administration regarding rules which mandate that prior permission is required for the screening of any film or documentary on the university premises. JNU - All India Students' Association (AISA) Secretary Madhurima, said, "Some students had seen ABVP activists pelting stones and recognised them." She added that, "Also, a teacher had called sometime back (informing) that there were some goons, wearing masks, around the main gate and were talking about weapons."
The ABVP denied the allegation, saying they were not present on the spot. "We did not go to the spot and no one from us (the students' body) was there. They are just taking our names to get more coverage," ABVP Delhi media convenor Ambuj told PTI.
On the screening not taking place, AISA National President N Sai Balaji, who was present at the spot, said, "They (the JNU administration) have cut off the power and internet." He said students had downloaded the documentary on their mobile phones through an application to watch and share it.
Asrar Ahmed, who had gone for the screening, said, "We were watching the documentary peacefully (on our phones) but some people threw stones at us. As it was dark, the people who threw the stones could not be identified." However, a senior police officer said that no stone-pelting incident was reported to the police.
Stone pelting incidents
"The JNUSU organised a screening of the documentary. However, the JNU administration said no prior information was given for the event. No such permission is required before such an event. They cut the power supply and stones were pelted at students who were watching the documentary on their phones," student activist Qasim said.
"There is an atmosphere of fear on the university campus. We tried to mobilise students towards the gate but goons were there too. So, we decided to march towards the police station demanding that electricity be restored," he said.
In a statement the AISA-JNU said, "...The students had resolved to watch the documentary despite the numerous obstacles. While the students were peacefully watching the documentary on laptops, ABVP goons suddenly started pelting stones and broken glass bottles at the students in the dark," it said. The students' body said the students somehow escaped from the venue and marched towards the main gate in protest.
"Even during the peaceful protest of students, ABVP goons repeatedly pelted stones and attacked numerous students. Several female students were harassed amidst the growing chaos," it said.
The government had on Friday directed social media platforms Twitter and YouTube to block links to the documentary titled India: The Modi Question. The Ministry of External Affairs has trashed the documentary as a "propaganda piece" that lacks objectivity and reflects a colonial mindset. However, opposition parties have slammed the government's move to block access to the documentary.
The two-part BBC documentary India: The Modi Question claims it investigated certain aspects relating to the 2002 Gujarat riots when Modi was the Chief Minister of the state. The documentary has not been screened in India.