The Central University of Rajasthan in Ajmer has suspended 10 students for watching the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in 2002 Gujarat riots, The Indian Express reported on Saturday.
Two students had been suspended on Friday and eight more on Saturday. The students will not be allowed to attend classes or stay in the hostel for 14 days.
One of the suspended students told The Indian Express that they had watched the documentary on their mobile phones and laptops, and no public screening was held. The student also alleged that members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student body of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, chanted slogans and stopped them from watching the documentary.
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.
The second part was released on Tuesday.
While the documentary has not been made available in India, pirated links of the film have been shared widely on online platforms. Screenings of the documentary have run into controversies at the Delhi University, the city’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, Ambedkar University and Jamia Millia Islamia University, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai and the Presidency University in Kolkata.
On January 20, the 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 had described the documentary as “a propaganda piece designed to push a particular discredited narrative”.
What happened at Central University of Rajasthan?
A suspended student told The Indian Express that on the evening of January 26, some students had gathered near the university post office to watch the documentary on their personal devices. However, as members of RSS’ student body ABVP started shouted slogans, the students went away.
The students alleged that the ABVP members then circulated messages on the college WhatsApp groups, asking students to assemble at the basketball court. The ABVP members then shouted slogans, barged into hostels of those who had watched the documentary and kicked on their doors, the suspended students alleged, according to The Indian Express.
However, the ABVP chief of the university, Vikash Pathak, said that members of his organisation, the college administration and the police asked the students not to watch the documentary, but they did not relent.
A copy of the suspension order shows that the action against the 10 students have been taken under clauses 3.3 and 3.5 of the University’s Ordinance 47, which deals with Students Discipline. The clause 3.3 deals with “disobeying the instructions of teachers or the authorities” and 3.5 is related to “demonstrating in late hours at places other than designated sites.”
The Rajasthan unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties has written to the vice-chancellor of the university, criticising the action as “communally selective”. Eight of the 10 suspended students are Muslims and one is a Christian, the rights body claimed in its statement.
Demanding that the suspension orders be revoked immediately, the letter said: “...The students were never heard. No enquiry gave them a hearing and without the students being given a right to hearing and without being issued show cause notices, they were expelled for 15 days from the university and hostel.”