10 Central University of Rajasthan (CURAJ) have written to the vice-chancellor demanding the withdrawal of a suspension order against them allegedly over the screening of the banned BBC documentary, 'India: The Modi Question’ on January 26.
The Kishangarh-based University suspended 10 students, all boys, for 14 days from both the classroom and hostel. The students told Outlook that all the suspended students are hostellers, coming from different corners of the country. The suspended students also alleged that some Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members, a right-wing all-India student organization created a ruckus at the film screening.
“Shortly after we finished watching the documentary, ABVP students raised slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ outside our hostel and eventually barged in with saffron flags. The university guards and police also arrived on the spot shortly and dispersed the group. While they sloganeered, the security personnel made no attempts to stop them”, claimed another student, suspended by the university authorities.
In the purported videos that have surfaced on social media, a group of students can be seen sloganeering, ‘Pukaarti Ma Bharti, khoon se tilak karo, goliyon se aarti’ (Mother India calls you to put a tilak of blood and revere her with bullets) and “Desh ke gaddaron, Bharat choro” (Traitors of the country, must leave India).
Former ABVP president, CURAJ, Vikas Pathak, told Outlook "We learnt about the banned documentary screening through social media. We saw a gathering of 40-45 students watching the documentary in public near the post office. We told them not to screen a film that has been banned in our country. But none of them listened”.
Denying the accusations made by the suspended students, Pathak said that no violence or threats took place. "We only talked to them, but they started arguing with us,” he claimed.
Virendra Singh, Sub-inspector at Bandar Sindari police station, Kishangarh told Outlook, “So far, we have received no complaint or FIR. The mobile police van went inside the campus after learning about two groups creating a ruckus over the screening of the documentary inside the campus.”
Students suspended over indiscipline
Refuting the allegation of 11 students that they were suspended over the documentary screening, the CURAJ said, “It is a routine disciplinary action taken against the students for breaching the code of conduct instead of screening of a documentary.”
While talking to Outlook, the university authorities denied the charges and said that it took action on the disciplinary ground and it had nothing to do with the documentary screening.
The university authority claims that the suspension was done under Ordinance 47, which deals with discipline issues. Clauses 3.3 (indiscipline) and 3.5 (assembling and demonstration at late hours at places other than designated sites) were cited in the suspension order.
Suspension of students “communally selective”?
In a letter to CURAJ Vice-Chancellor Anand Bhalerao, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) called the suspension of students “communally selective”. “Out of the suspended students, eight are Muslim, one is Christian and one is Hindu. The PUCL is clear that no screening of any film happened on the 26th of January 2023. And the question of individual viewing on mobiles is a private matter and comes within the right to privacy of the students", reads the statement issued by the PUCL.
PUCL national president Kavita Srivastava termed the action “an egregious abuse of power by the university authorities and demanded that the suspension orders be withdrawn “immediately”. “The students were never heard. No inquiry gave them a hearing and without the students being given a right to a hearing and without being issued show cause notices, they were expelled for 15 days from the university and hostel. The authorities should be protecting and defending the freedom of speech and expression of the students as a part of the right to education and critical thinking”, Srivastava said in a letter to the VC.