Rajasthan Central University bans BBC documentary, suspends 11 students - Hindustan Times

Rajasthan Central University bans BBC documentary, suspends 11 students

Jan 29, 2023 04:22 PM IST

The Rajasthan Central University’s orders came after an alleged screening of the controversial BBC documentary on January 26 triggered a dispute inside the campus

The Central University of Rajasthan in Ajmer has suspended 11 students for 14 days and imposed a ban on the controversial BBC documentary ‘India – The Modi Question’ after an alleged screening of the film on January 26 triggered a dispute inside the campus.

The Rajasthan Central University said the order banning the BBC documentary was issued to maintain law and order and safety of the students’ fraternity. (Representative Image)
The Rajasthan Central University said the order banning the BBC documentary was issued to maintain law and order and safety of the students’ fraternity. (Representative Image)

The university authorities have said that the action on the students was “based on disciplinary grounds and it was nowhere related to the documentary,” and claimed that the decision to ban the documentary was taken “to maintain law and order and safety of the students’ fraternity”.

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“In wake of the recent development over a documentary controversy over social media and other media platforms, it has been decided by the competent authority to enforce ban of screening BBC documentary with immediate effect,” said the University order, issued on Saturday, a day after the alleged incident.

“The HoDs (head of departments) are asked to sensitise their students in this regard. The order has been issued to maintain law and order and safety of the students’ fraternity,” it added. HT has seen a copy of the order.

The students have been suspended from both hostel and academics.

A suspended student, talking to HT said, “On January 26 some students circulated a poster announcing that the documentary will be watched in the evening at 7pm near the post office in the University campus. Around 30-40 students gathered and watched the documentary on their respective phones. Soon the university security arrived and also the activists of ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), who started shouting slogans and questioned us over the documentary.”

He continued, “Thereafter, the security came and gave us the notice of suspension and questioned why the documentary was seen by us? He added that the suspension has been done on the list of names the ABVP gave to the administration.

Commenting on the incident, ABVP president for the University, Vikas Pathak said a group of students following a particular ideology announced that they will be screening the banned documentary at 7pm on the Republic Day. The students gathered and started watching the documentary on their laptops and phones. They even forcefully asked others present to watch it.”

“They were asked by some students not to do such things publically as it was a banned documentary, but they didn’t listen. The campus security and police came and they misbehaved with them,” said Pathak. He rejected the allegations that the ABVP had given a list of students to the administration for suspension.

The Congress and social activists have demanded the withdrawal of the University’s suspension order against the students.

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Rajasthan president, Kavita Srivastav tweeted, “Shameful action by the Central University, Rajasthan for suspending students for allegedly viewing on their Mobiles the BBC documentary: India, The Modi Question. The University knows that the film has not been banned, only access denied. Still it has acted on the ABVP lists.”

In a letter addressed to the vice-chancellor, Srivastava said no screening of the documentary happened and the question of individual viewing of phone is a private matter and comes within right to privacy of the students. There is no ban on watching the film in India and no order to that effect has been issued by any authority to date.”

She said no enquiry gave them hearing and without the student given a right to hearing and without issuing a show cause notice, they are expelled. “The PUCL demand expulsion order be rescinded immediately and the students be reinstated to the university,” she said.

Congress spokesperson RC Choudhary said, “In a democracy the Constitution gives rights to agree and disagree, and nothing can be just banned. The suspension of students is unfortunate and attack on freedom.”

The documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state, sparked a controversy with the central government rejecting it as “propaganda” and a reflection of a “colonial mindset.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, officials last week said that the Centre ordered YouTube to take down copies of the documentary and asked Twitter to remove posts connected to it as the administration believes that the series poses a threat to the country’s sovereignty and public order.

Disruptions and protests have been reported from universities across the country since the first episode of the two-part documentary was aired last week on BBC-2 in the UK.

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    Sachin Saini is Special Correspondent for Rajasthan. He covers politics, tourism, forest, home, panchayati raj and rural development, and development journalism.

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