Fresh protests have erupted at Hyderabad Central University.
Yesterday, August 20, the police stormed the campus at 3 pm and took six students into custody for screening Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Ram ke Naam at the Sociology department’s lecture hall. The students were later released.
According to a statement released by the university’s All India Student’s Association (AISA) unit, five of them were from their association and one was from the Students Federation of India (SFI).
Reportedly, the police had received a complaint from the administration that the students had not taken permission to screen the documentary. However, AISA, in their statement, claimed the opposite saying: “One of our comrades, in his capacity as a student of [the] Sociology department, sought permission from one of the department (sic) to arrange a screening in one of the classrooms.”
Earlier that day, the administration had allegedly informed students to not screen the documentary at the university’s seminar hall – the place where it was scheduled to be screened with the administration’s due permission, says the statement.
According the the New Indian Express, the police entered the lecture hall, detained the six students and confiscated a student’s laptop. This lead to protest on the campus with the students asking for the immediate release of those arrested.
Following the incident, many students and activists took to Twitter to condemn the incident.
Just heard 5 activists of @AISA_tweets have been arrested for screening Anand Patwardhan’s internationally acclaimed film #RamKeNaam (In the Name of God) in the University of Hyderabad. Since when has film screening become a crime? Release arrested AISA HCU comrades immediately!
— Dipankar (@Dipankar_cpiml) August 20, 2019
Stand with Anand Patwardhan and the students at Hyderabad Central University. The students wanted to screen Ram ke Naam (1992), which the Bombay High Court ordered to be shown on Doordarshan in 1996.
More evidence of the suffocation of @narendramodi Raj.
— Vijay Prashad (@vijayprashad) August 21, 2019
SFI’s general secretary Abhishek Nandan was quoted by the News Minute as saying, “Why is that for every event, we have to take permission from the authorities? Students irrespective of which organisation they belong to, should be free to speak wherever they want. The administration has been working against the spirit of campus democracy.”
According to Subhashini Ali, the President of All India Women’s Democratic Association, the students were let off later that day.
Re arrest of students in Central University Hyderabad (3 from AISA 2 from SFI). All were released last night after our comrades intervened
— subhashini ali (@SubhashiniAli) August 21, 2019
The police, on the other hand, denied all such claims.
Gachibowli inspector told News Minute that the no students were detained or arrested. “We seized the laptop to check the material they had in it. It is not detention.” he added.
This is not the first time that the screening of a political documentary in an academic space has invited intervention from the authorities.
In January this year, when Pinjra Tod – a women lead collective against discriminatory hostel rules – decided to screen Patwardhan’s documentary – The Father, Son and the Holy War – near Delhi University’s north campus, police allegedly intervened and shut the screening when a passer-by informed them that the film’s content was “anti-national.”
However, A.K. Lal, additional deputy commissioner of police, denied the allegations saying they didn’t stop the screening.
Another documentary Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai, by Nakul Singh Sawhney faced flak from BJP’s student wing Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) back in 2015. The film is based on the communal riots that took place in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.
The ABVP members went to the seminar room of Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, to stop the screening of the documentary claiming that the film is against Hinduism, the Newslaundry reported.
Featured image credit: PTI