Days after neighbouring states saw more and more instances of the screening of the banned BBC documentary on Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Tamil Nadu unit of the CPI(M) and its auxiliary wing Students Federation of India (SFI) said that they would increase the screenings in the state. Meanwhile, the DMK had distanced itself from the issue.
On Thursday, Tamil Nadu too joined the protests by screening India: The Modi Question, which was banned in India by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The auxiliary wings of the Communist parties — the DYFI and the SFI — took the initiative to screen the documentary in universities and colleges across Tamil Nadu.
On Thursday, the DYFI Thiruvarur unit planned to screen the documentary film, but the local police detained the office-bearers of the organisation and also restricted them from screening the documentary.
Condemning it, the DYFI Chennai unit protested in the city on Thursday, where the police detained them for unlawful assembly and later released them.
Meanwhile, Presidency College students screened the documentary on their hostel campus on Thursday night.
Following this, the SFI Chennai district unit announced that it would screen it in the auditorium of Madras University at 3 pm on Friday. However, the vice-chancellor refused permission.
Condemning the move, the SFI Chennai (Central) district secretary V Arunkumar said that they would screen the documentary as planned, and that they were even ready to get arrested.
The university officials held talks with the students and denied permission to screen the documentary on the university campus.
Despite this, nearly 25 students watched the documentary on a laptop.
Arunkumar said that the vice-chancellor was acting in an undemocratic way. “We, the students, are not criminals, and watching a documentary film is not a criminal activity,” he said.
Following the screening of the documentary, the Madras University management sent WhatsApp messages warning the students that action will be initiated against those who watch the documentary inside the university campus.
CPI(M) condemns TN government moves
Meanwhile, the CPI(M) state unit president Balakrishnan in a statement condemned the Tamil Nadu government and the police for initiating action against those who were watching the documentary.
Balakrishnan said: “It is the fundamental right of every citizen to know the news by watching a documentary film, and curbing the rights is not acceptable.”
He also stated that the Communist party would screen the BBC documentary statewide and hold interactions with the viewers.
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— GAVASKAR (@gavastk) January 27, 2023
He also appealed to the DMK government not to curb the fundamental rights of citizens using the police, but to instead protect them.
The Naam Tamilar Party also condemned the action of the police against those who watched the BBC documentary.
DMK pushes away issue
Meanwhile, the DMK — which is in power in Tamil Nadu — distanced itself from the issue.
When South First contacted DMK students’ wing secretary and Kancheepuram MLA CVMP Ezhilarasan, he said the issue was connected to the Gujarat riots and only a political party would act on it — not its students’ wing.
Asked about the Communist parties screening it throughout the state, Ezhilarasan said: “If the Communist parties and the SFI pursue the issue, the DMK students wing doesn’t need to follow them. If there is anything related to education or linguistic issues, the DMK students’ wing can take it directly, that too with the approval of the party high command.”
The DMK MLA, however, also said that if the party’s high command ordered them to pursue the issue, they would do it.
Commenting on the DMK distancing itself from the issue, political observer Savukku Shankar said: “The DMK speaks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and anti-fascism, but if one watches it closely, the party doesn’t act against him and is literally scared of the Union government”
He added: “This documentary is not pornography, that the government would act against one who watches it. The DMK government should stay away from the people who screen it unless it is totally banned.”
He also stated that the DMK claimed that it is defending minorities. If it was, it should have allowed the screening of the documentary.
“After 20 years, a reputed news channel has come up with a documentary based on evidence and at least to an extent, the minorities in the country can have a consolation on this. And a party like the DMK should have stood by the side of Muslims on this issue. Unfortunately, the DMK is not willing to,” Shankar said.
A senior police official told the South First that unless there was a law and order situation, the police were instructed not to act or use force on the persons who viewed or screened the documentary.