The Central University of Rajasthan in Ajmer has suspended 10 students for watching a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, The Indian Express reported on Saturday.
Two students were suspended on Friday and eight on Saturday. 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 there was no public screening. The student also alleged that members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student body of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, raised slogans and prevented him from watching the documentary.
The first episode of a two-part BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question, was released on 17 January. It alleged that a team sent by the British government had found Modi, who was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time of the riots. “directly responsible for the climate of impunity” for violence against Muslims.
The second part was released on Tuesday.
While the documentary has not been made available in India, pirated links to the film have been widely shared on online platforms. Screenings of the documentary have drawn controversy at the University of Delhi, 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 20 January, the government issued directions to stop YouTube and Twitter from sharing documentary clips using the emergency powers available under the Information Technology Rules, 2021. The Ministry of External Affairs described the documentary as “a propaganda piece designed to advance a particular discrediting narrative.”
What happened at the Central University of Rajasthan?
A suspended student told The Indian Express that on the evening of 26 January, some students gathered near the university post office to watch the documentary on their personal devices. However, the students left as soon as members of the ABVP, the student wing of the RSS, started raising slogans.
The students alleged that the ABVP members then circulated the message on college WhatsApp groups, asking students to assemble at the basketball court. According to The Indian Express, the suspended students alleged that the ABVP members then raised slogans, barged into the hostels of those watching the documentary, and kicked in their doors.
However, Vikas Pathak, ABVP chief of the university, said that members of his organization, the college administration, and the police asked the students not to watch the BBC documentary, but they did not relent.
The copy of the suspension order reveals that the action against the 10 students has been taken under sections 3.3 and 3.5 of Ordinance 47 of the university, which deals with student discipline. Clause 3.3 deals with “disobeying the instructions of teachers or officials,” and 3.5 deals with “late performances at places other than designated sites.”
The Rajasthan unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties has written to the university’s vice-chancellor, calling the action “communally selective.” The human rights body claimed in its statement that out of the 10 suspended students, eight are Muslims and one is a Christian.
Demanding immediate revocation of the suspension orders, the letter said: “…the students were never heard. No inquiry heard them, and without giving the students their right to be heard and without issuing show cause notices.” they were expelled from the university and hostel for 15 days.