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Riot film gets JNU screening

The RSS-backed ABVP has screened at JNU a documentary that suggests the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots stemmed from alleged crimes against women by some minority community youths, the campus show coming weeks before the student union elections.

By Pheroze L. Vincent
  • Published 23.08.17
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New Delhi, Aug. 22: The RSS-backed ABVP has screened at JNU a documentary that suggests the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots stemmed from alleged crimes against women by some minority community youths, the campus show coming weeks before the student union elections.

The open-air screening of " Muzaffarnagar - Aakhir Kyun? (Muzaffarnagar - But Why?)" yesterday came two years after the Sangh student arm was accused of violently disrupting the show of another documentary, Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai ( Muzaffarnagar Eventually), on campuses across the country.

Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai (MBH), by Nakul Sawhney, showed how the BJP had filled the vacuum left by the collapse of the Bharatiya Kisan Union in Muzaffarnagar and how the then Samajwadi government of Uttar Pradesh did little to check the communal frenzy whipped around rumours that Jat women's "honour" was at risk.

Sawhney was attacked at Delhi University, allegedly by ABVP activists, in 2015. It sparked protests at University of Hyderabad by the Ambedkar Students Association, then led by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula. This started a chain of disputes between the Ambedkar Students Association and the varsity administration, culminating in the suicide of Vemula in January 2016.

At JNU yesterday, Aakhir Kyun director Vivek Sinha told the audience: "If you have a mother, sister, wife or sister-in-law, will you tolerate anyone harassing, gang-raping or kidnapping them if they go outside? If anyone says that (they will do so), what will you do? People will react..." The JNU administration had granted permission for yesterday's show. The ABVP had raised slogans when MBH, and another documentary, Caste on the Menu Card, were screened earlier. Several students are facing inquiries for screening the two films without permission.

JNUSU president Mohit Pandey uploaded a clip of Sinha's talk on YouTube. "We don't believe in using the ABVP's tactics of violent opposition to different ideas. Instead, we exposed how they propagate hate, especially before polls, be it at JNU or in Muzaffarnagar before the Lok Sabha polls," Pandey, who is from the CPIML Liberation-backed All India Students Association (AISA), said.

ABVP leader Saurabh Sharma, a former JNUSU joint secretary, said his organisation wanted to put out facts "at a time when Muslims and Hindus are being instigated" at JNU before the union elections. "We invited the director, Supreme Court lawyer Sanjay Tyagi and the petitioner on the riots against the then UP government, Shahid Hussain, to explain the root causes (of the riots). This is unlike MBH, which suggests there are more riots to come. I can't speak about other places but in JNU, we have never violently disrupted anything. When MBH was screened, our rally was passing by and that may have disturbed the viewers."

Rahul Sonpimple, a leader of the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association, said: "We condemn the film but did not disrupt it. The ABVP disrupted our screening of Caste on the Menu Card and people object when we us the word "Brahminical" in our posters. Why is no one questioning them on the screening of this communal film that holds Muslims responsible for the riots that they were the victims of?" Sonpimple added. Over 60 people died and more than 50,000 Muslims rendered homeless in the riots.