JNU students watching BBC documentary about 2002 Gujarat riots allegedly attacked with stones

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Jawaharlal Nehru University students have alleged that they were attacked with stones on Tuesday after a power and internet outage at the campus halted the screening of a BBC documentary about 2002 Gujarat riots, reported the Hindustan Times.

The students also alleged that power was intentionally cut off by the university administration to stop them from watching the documentary, which has not been officially screened in the country.

“There was a major line fault,” Santishree Pandit, the vice chancellor of the university, told the Hindustan Times. “Even the faculty residences and other facilities are without light. The engineering wing is looking into the issue.”

After the screening was disrupted at the university, stones were thrown at students who were watching the documentary on their mobile phones and laptops.

The first episode of the BBC’s two-part documentary titled India: The Modi Question was released on January 17. It alleges that a team sent by the British government had found that Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat when the riots took place, was “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the violence against Muslims.

While the documentary has not been made available in India, it has been uploaded on several YouTube channels and shared widely on Twitter.

On January 20, the Indian government had used emergency powers available under the Information Technology Rules, 2021, to issue directions to YouTube and Twitter to block clips of the documentary from being shared. The foreign ministry has described the documentary as “a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative”.

Several political groups and college students, including in Hyderabad, have screened or are planning to screen the documentary. In Hyderabad, members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which is the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, had filed a complaint with the Hyderabad University authorities against screening of the documentary.

At the Jawaharlal Nehru University, some students claimed that ABVP members were responsible for throwing stones at them.

Students also protested outside a police station in Vasant Kunj after they were allegedly hit with stones for watching the BBC documentary, reported ANI. Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union President Aishe Ghosh told reporters that the student union has filed a complaint, following which they called off the protest.

“We believe that this country stands for democracy and every form of dissent is celebrated here,” Ghosh said, reported The Times of India. “By taking this stance and disconnecting power supply, they chose to break our spirit and are trying to finish dissent. If you think that you’ll end JNU’s idea of dissent then that’s not what’s going to happen.”

She added: “This campus has been for JNU students since its inception and has always stood for struggle and resistance. We will watch the documentary together and this will be a public form of protest. We care about our democracy.”

The Jawaharlal Nehru University administration had issued an advisory against the screening of the documentary a day before citing possible disruption to peace and harmony at the campus, reported the newspaper.

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