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Six students of  University of Hyderabad affiliated to left-wing organisations AISA and SFI were allegedly detained over the screening of  Anand Patwardhan’s documentary on Ayodhya dispute, “Ram Ke Naam.”

The students were arrested and the documentary screening scheduled at Sociology department’s lecture hall was stopped by police who barged into the campus at around 3 pm yesterday.

The Incident:

AISA had scheduled the screening of Anand Patwardhan’s movie Ram Ke Naam on 20th August 4.30 pm at the New Seminar Hall after receiving permission from the office of Dean, Social Science department.

“The programme was scheduled at 4.30 pm and we received a call at 3.45 pm saying that the room can’t be allotted. We had by then sent out the posters, made all the necessary arrangements and at the last minute it was called off.  “said Nikhil a member of AISA to The Woke Journal.

As the permission was suddenly revoked, the students approached the Head of the Department and arranged one of the classrooms in the department for the screening.

“It was just a classroom space, it was just a movie screening. Nobody has any business to interfere with that. However, within 10 minutes security personnel turned up and informed us that the classroom can’t be used without the permission of the registrar. They also said that a notice had been put up. Nobody knows of such notice yet,” says Nikhil.

Within the next 5 minutes, Telangana Police barged into the classroom. After discussions with the police and security personnel, the students agreed to disperse and cancel the programme. However, the police demanded to confiscate one of the laptops of the organisers.

“Police said that they would check and return the laptop. However, the laptop is his personal property. They can’t just confiscate it without any reason. This led to an argument which soon turned into a scuffle,” Nikhil said.

The students have also complained that they were verbally and physically assaulted by the police during the scuffle, at the end of which 6 of them were detained.

Meanwhile, the police claimed that the students did not take prior permission from the university administration for the screening and that they arrived at the campus after intimation from the administration.

The police also said that arrests were made. Responding to The Woke Journal, Inspector R Srinivas said, “We did not detain or arrest anyone. The students were screening a movie without permission from university authority. We were contacted by the administration, hence interfered. We took one of the laptops to the police station and suggested the students that they can accompany us. Thus they came along with us.”

The university administration has not responded to the incident yet. The PRO when contacted, refused to comment on the issue.

Anand Patwardhan responds:

“A heartfelt thank you to AISA and all those who know that Fascism can only be fought by reviving a culture of justice and humanity,” responded Anand Patwardhan through his Facebook page.

His documentary Ram Ke Naam, produced in 1992, is about Hindutva group Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s efforts to build a Ram temple in Ayodhya. It is a film which has a U certificate and was also the recipient of the national awards in 1992.

“Ram Ke Naam was shown at prime time on Doordarshan in 1996 after a High Court order. Those were comparatively Acche Din,” Patwardhan wrote.

Police Patrolling Within UoH Campus

The students also have concerns regarding the police patrolling on the campus. Though there had been regular police patrolling for the past 3 years, it has gone up considerably, states the students.

“We are planning to ask the administration as to why there is continuous police patrolling within the campus. This is a university space, right? It’s one of the last places where any meaningful discussion or dissent is possible. The police presence is not limited to outrightly political events, but it happens even during cultural events. There was a poetry reading the other day, in which policemen just turned up. For every other programme there is a police presence,” Nikhil says.

The students are also bothered because the intimidation is selective.

“A panel discussion held under the banner of SFI on article 370 was stalled last week. They were asked to shift it to another date. The programme was later conducted in the presence of Telangana police. However, ABVP conducted a panel discussion on the same issue at Ambedkar auditorium with no intervention,” says Nikhil.

UHTA Responds:

G. Vijay of University of Hyderabad Teachers Association (UHTA) responded to The Woke Journal: “We have not many complaints about the police, not as many complaints we have about the administration. We think that it is completely inappropriate in the part of the administration to call the police especially when there is no violence or unrest. It is just an artificial threat perception.”

He also opined that the police patrolling that started during the movement that happened post the institutional murder of Rohit Vemula, had now been normalised.

“Afterall, we are a civic institution. Our students are not criminals. They are some of the best lots in the country. These are some of the brightest children. It is completely uncalled for to call the police to disturb discussions and debates,” he said.

“These are institutions which are meant to teach students how to voice differences without entering into conflict. We should learn to deal with differences rather than anticipate potential threat and violence. If this culture is not ingrained or taught, the university as an institution would fail. It is a failure of long term vision,” Professor G. Vijay added.

All-Party Meeting and Protests

Following the incident, the ABVP led students union called for an all-party meeting to address the issue.

Responding to TWJ, Abhishek Nandan of SFI said,” In the meeting, the students union started giving instructions that permission shall be taken before a programme and so on. In 2015, the union had conducted a UGBM and given mandate that police cannot enter for talks, seminars etc. Police have been interrupting for the last two weeks and the union is inattentive to the issue.”

He also asked that isn’t it the responsibility of the students union to call for a protest if 6 students from campus are detained.

“While we were protesting the students affiliated to ABVP came and shouted anti slogans, created ruckus instead of standing in solidarity. We will not do meetings again with the union. They broke the belief of the mandate of the students. We have requested them to call for a UGBM,” Nandan added.

“The Union has yet not condemned the act of admin and police who entered the classrooms to arrest the students and didn’t take any stand against the ABVP goons who were abusing the protesting students in the gate,” read the statement issued by SIO-UoH boycotting the meeting called by ABVP led Union.

“Not a single time in its tenure has the students union called for a UGBM despite several important issues prevailing in the campus. We demanded to call for a UGBM and come to a decision with the consensus of the student’s community. We finally expressed that ABVP and the Students union has been important stakeholders in every single incident which puts the harmony of the campus at stake and walked out of the meeting,” said ASA in a note released after the All-Party meeting.

The student community has called for a ‘Save Campus Democracy’ rally on 21 August 2019 from 8.30 PM onwards to register dissent against continuos police assault on campus democracy.

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