India university warns against screening BBC documentary on Modi


A top Indian university has warned its students’ union of strict disciplinary action if it goes ahead with a planned screening of a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying it might “disturb peace and harmony” on the campus.
Modi’s government has dismissed the documentary, which questioned his leadership during deadly riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, as “propaganda”, blocked its airing and also barred sharing of any clips via social media in the country.
Modi was chief minister of Gujarat during the violence in which more than 2,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims, according to rights groups. He ran the western state from 2001 until his election as prime minister in 2014 and briefly faced a travel ban by the United States over the riots.
The students’ union of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), long seen as a bastion of left-wing politics, said on Twitter it would screen the documentary, India: The Modi Question, at its office at 9pm (15:30 GMT) on Tuesday.
The university administration said on its website it had not given permission for the documentary to be shown.
“This is to emphasise that such an unauthorised activity may disturb peace and harmony of the university campus,” the university said.
“The concerned students/individuals are firmly advised to cancel the proposed programme immediately failing which a strict disciplinary action may be initiated as per the university rules.”
President of the JNU students’ union, Aishe Ghosh, invited students on Twitter to the screening of the documentary that has been “‘banned’ by an ‘elected government’ of the largest ‘democracy’”.
The violence in Gujarat erupted in late February 2002 after a train carrying many Hindu pilgrims caught fire, killing 59.
Crowds later rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods across the state, killing and raping dozens of women, in one of the worst religious massacres in India’s history.
The two-part BBC documentary cited a previously classified British foreign ministry report quoting unnamed sources saying that Modi met senior police officers and “ordered them not to intervene” in the attacks on Muslims that followed.
It also said the violence was “politically motivated” and the aim “was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas”.
The riots were impossible “without the climate of impunity created by the state government… Narendra Modi is directly responsible,” it concluded.
Modi has repeatedly denied accusations that he did not do enough to stop the riots and was exonerated in 2012 following an inquiry overseen by the Supreme Court. Another petition questioning his exoneration was dismissed last year.
The BBC said last week that the documentary was “rigorously researched” and involved a “wide range” of voices and opinions, including responses from people in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The documentary is also scheduled to be screened on Tuesday at various campuses in the southern state of Kerala, currently governed by a communist party opposed to the BJP.
Modi’s government has been accused of stifling dissent by free-speech activists and opposition leaders for years.