Protesters from the BJP and its youth wing clashed with police in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday when the CPM-backed DYFI publicly screened the first part of the BBC documentary, India: The Modi Question, in Kerala’s capital.
The police used water cannons when the protesters turned violent and tried to overturn the metal barricades placed to prevent them from proceeding to the location where the documentary was being screened.
The BJP had warned that any screening of the documentary in the state would be disrupted, while the DYFI, the CPM’s youth wing, screened it at several locations across the state.
The Youth Congress also screened the documentary at several public places in Kerala. While the Centre — which has slammed the documentary as reflecting a continuing colonial mindset — has not announced a ban, it has reportedly ordered Twitter and YouTube to block links to the film.
The DYFI confirmed plans to install giant screens at various public places across the state to screen the documentary.
State DYFI secretary V.K. Sanoj told a news conference on Tuesday that the organisation also planned to screen the documentary across the country. “(India’s) democratic society needs to resist and defeat all measures taken to block the documentary. The truth will emerge whatever they (the BJP) do to suppress it,” he said.
State BJP president K. Surendran wrote to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan asking that the screenings be stopped.
The Union minister of state for external affairs, V. Muraleedharan, made a similar demand on Facebook.
“The state government should decide if the Supreme Court should be insulted from Kerala’s soil,” Muraleedharan said, echoing the government’s charge that the documentary undermines the apex court’s authority.
The allusion was to the Supreme Court’s June 2022 judgment that upheld a special investigation team report that was favourable to Modi and other co-accused in a riot conspiracy case. In the CPM citadels in north Kerala, the documentary was screened without any protest.
Kannur University had denied permission to the Students Federation of India to screen the documentary at its seminar hall. But around 2pm, students defied the director’s orders and played it.
While the Congress openly pitched for screening the documentary, the state party unit’s digital media cell convener Anil Antony described it as “setting a dangerous precedent”.
Anil, son of former defence minister A.K. Antony, tweeted his reservations: “Despite large differences with BJP, I think those placing the views of the BBC, a state-sponsored channel with a long history of prejudices, and of Jack Straw, the brain behind the Iraq war, over institutions is setting a dangerous precedent and will undermine our sovereignty.
State Youth Congress chief and MLA Shari Parambil said: “The Youth Congress view is clear and this is not the time to sit quietly being afraid of the government. We will respond and let there be no doubt about it.”