Published: 30th January 2023
Central University of Rajasthan students suspended for watching BBC documentary on phones; officials deny claims
Following the incident, the university issued an order on January 27 banning the screening of the BBC documentary and urged concerned authorities to enforce this ban
Eleven students from the Central University of Rajasthan in Ajmer have allegedly been suspended for watching the BBC documentary on India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, university officials have denied these claims and termed the suspension as a "normal routine to ensure discipline".
One of the suspended students told EdexLive on the condition of anonymity that they were watching the documentary titled India: The Modi Question on their mobile phones in the canteen area on January 26, when certain ABVP members started sloganeering and asked them to stop watching the documentary. "We did not organise any public screening. We were watching it on our phones when some guards came and told us to stop. Following this, ABVP members started protesting and raising slogans. They switched off the lights of the boys hostel and started kicking our doors," the student said.
Students mentioned that in light of the sloganeering, the university issued an advisory on January 27 which stated that students are advised not to resort to any such activity. "It has been observed that some students are loitering in the campus during midnight and sloganeering, thereby disturbing the peace. Therefore, students are advised not to resort to any such activity. Breach of discipline in this regards shall attract disciplinary action, hence students are cautioned to take note of this advisory," it added.
Meanwhile, the suspended student alleged that the ABVP produced a list of 24 members to the administration and that they claimed to have watched the documentary. "Not all the people mentioned in the list watched the documentary. Some were not even there on campus that night. But students from this list were suspended by the administration. They came to us on the night of January 28 and asked us to leave or else we would be rusticated. We didn't even have accommodation. They weren't willing to listen to us either," the student said.
Matter of privacy
The People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan took note of the aforementioned incident and wrote a letter to Prof Anand Bhalerao, Vice-Chancellor of the University and urged the authorities to revoke the expulsion order and reinstate the students to the university.
"The PUCL is clear that no screening of any film happened on January 26, 2023. And the question of individual viewing on mobile phones is a private matter and comes within the right to privacy of students," they stated in the letter which was shared by Kavita Srivastava, President of PUCL, Rajasthan on Twitter.
They stated that the students were expelled for 15 days without giving them a right to a hearing and without issuing show cause notices. "Another fact in this episode that has perturbed the PUCL is that the university has used the list provided by the ABVP to target and suspend students, while not taking any action against the ABVP for spreading falsehood, shouting hate slogans and causing ruckus on the campus and hostel and creating fear and terror amongst the students," it was stated in the letter.
Following the incident, the university issued an order on January 27 banning the screening of the BBC documentary and urged concerned authorities to enforce this ban. "All the HoDs are hereby requested to sensitize their students in this regard. Any specific academic activity in which gathering is required has to be cleared by the Registrar with the due recommendations of Deans Student Welfare. This order is issued in order to maintain general law and order and safety of the student's fraternity," the order added.
On the orders of expulsion, the university authorities have denied the claims that they were suspended due to the BBC documentary "screening". "We took disciplinary action and it is a normal routine. We have done it in the past as well. Nowhere in the order is it mentioned that we have suspended them due to the documentary," the official said.
The expulsion order, which was shared with EdexLive, stated that the concerned student was found guilty of indiscipline under the Central University of Rajasthan Ordinance 47, (Clause 3.3 and 3.5). As per information available on the university website, Ordinance 47 is concerned with students' discipline. Clause 3.3 states, "Disobeying the instructions of teachers or the authorities" and Clause 3.5 states, "Demonstrating in late hours at places other than designated site."
The students have been trying to reach out to the Proctor but they claim that the office is not responding to their emails or calls.