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Indian university warns against screening of BBC documentary on Modi


India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to his supporters as he arrives to cast his vote during the second and last phase of Gujarat state assembly elections in Ahmedabad, India, December 5, 2022. REUTERS/Amit Dave

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 on Tuesday, saying it might disturb peace and harmony of 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.

The students’ union of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, long seen as a bastion of left-wing politics, said on Twitter it would screen the documentary, “India: The Modi Question”, at a cafeteria at 9 p.m. (1530 GMT).

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 union, Aishe Ghosh, asked students on Twitter to the screening of a documentary that has been “‘banned’ by an ‘elected government’ of the largest ‘democracy'”.

The violence in Gujarat erupted after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, killing 59. Crowds later rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods.

The High Court of Gujarat in 2017 jailed 11 men for life for setting the train on fire.

Modi has 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 Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

The documentary is also scheduled to be screened at various campuses in the southern state of Kerala on Tuesday.

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