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BBC documentary row: 10 Rajasthan varsity students suspended

Ten students of the Central University of Rajasthan (CURAJ) in Ajmer district were suspended for two weeks after they allegedly gathered on the campus to watch a controversial BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots.
 
The university authorities, however, claimed that the suspension of the students was not linked to them watching the documentary, India: The Modi Question.
According to the university order, disciplinary action has been taken against the students for allegedly disobeying the instructions of authorities and carrying out a late-night demonstration at an undesignated site.
 
The students have been suspended from the academics as well as the hostel on Friday for disobeying the instructions of teachers or the authorities and demonstrating in late hours at places other than designated sites, the suspension order read.
The alleged incident took place on January 26.
 
CURAJ Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) president Vikash Pathak claimed that invitations for the screening of the controversial documentary on Gujarat riots near the campus canteen were circulated on social media. He said that they had opposed the students who were gathering to watch the documentary.
 
Two policemen had reached the spot to avoid any untoward incident, Bander Sindri police Station House Officer (SHO) Kalu Lal said. On January 26, around 25-30 students gathered with covered faces and they were dispersed from the spot, police said.
 
An NGO People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has written to CURAJ Vice-Chancellor Anand Bhalerao opposing the action against the 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," the organisation said in a statement.
 
It claimed that the students "were never heard. No enquiry gave them a hearing and without the students being given a right to hearing and without being issued show cause notices, they were expelled for 15 days from the university and hostel." University authorities, however, said the action on the students has no connection with the watching of the documentary and said it was "a routine disciplinary action." "The action wasn't taken over screening of the documentary. It was a normal, routine, disciplinary action taken against these students, which is a routine activity of an academic institution," a university spokesperson said.
 
While he did not elaborate on what action had attracted the punishment, the university administration had on January 27 issued an order to ban the screening of the BBC documentary with immediate effect.
 
Any academic activity in which a gathering is required has to be cleared by the registrar with the recommendations of the dean and students' welfare. The university administration had also advised the students not to resort to sloganeering and loitering late at night on campus.
 
The Centre has issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the controversial BBC documentary.
The Ministry of External Affairs has trashed the documentary as a "propaganda piece" that lacks objectivity and reflects a colonial mindset.
 
However, several opposition parties have slammed the government's action and said they would oppose any censorship. Several student outfits, including those affiliated to the Congress and the Left, have since organised screenings of the documentary in a number of universities, leading to clashes at some places.
The RSS student wing ABVP has been opposing the screening of the film.

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