Screening of film on inter-faith marriages triggers backlash in JNU

The Left-controlled Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) on Friday disrupted the screening of a film critical of inter-faith marriages in Kerala, that was being screened by Hindutva debate forum Vivekananda Vichar Manch, on campus.

By Pheroze L. Vincent
  • Published 28.04.18
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The protest against the screening

New Delhi: The Left-controlled Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) on Friday disrupted the screening of a film critical of inter-faith marriages in Kerala, that was being screened by Hindutva debate forum Vivekananda Vichar Manch, on campus.

A few students were injured in scuffles between protesters and the Sangh-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). A private guard has been admitted to hospital for a possible fracture after being hit by a car during the melee.

Around 7pm, just before the screening of In The Name of Love, directed by Sudipto Sen, students led by JNUSU leaders, student members of the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) and anti-establishment student groups raised slogans and held up placards.

The JNUSU said that eggs and stones were hurled at students who protested "peacefully." Police were deployed outside the campus after the clash.

An effigy of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the ABVP was set alight by JNUSU president Geeta Kumari. A while later, just after Sen had spoken and the film had begun, a group of students breached the cordon of private guards and held up placards in front of the screen.

These students included Jatin Goraya and Pradeep Narwal who had rebelled and quit the ABVP against casteism in 2016.

"My film is not about love jihad. It is on an international conspiracy being hatched against India. It is on conversion, and how Kerala has become a hotbed of women being tricked - not by ordinary Muslims, but people being funded by foreign agencies," Sen told The Telegraph.

He added: "I have interviewed (CPM leader) Brinda Karat, (former chief ministers) Oommen Chandy and V.S. Achutanandan on this. Instead of protesting, if they watch the film, then we can debate."

Vijay Kumar, president of JNU's ABVP unit, said: "These goons of communist groups and Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association talk about freedom of expression, and yet they kill those who raise their voice. They murder in Kerala, and are now trying this in JNU."

GSCASH member Shreya Ghosh, who was part of the protest, said: "In the name of freedom of expression, they actually want to silence the Hadiyas of India. If a thousand men say that a woman is wrong to choose a Muslim partner, then we will question what they are saying."

GSCASH member Srabani Chakraborty added: "You see the visuals of communist leaders in this film, but only hear the voiceover in English with words they have never said. It's a clear attempt to create a communal problem in JNU."

A cable connecting the screen was disconnected during the ruckus as guards tried to separate groups of clashing students.

A JNU official told this paper: "One guard was badly injured and has probably fractured his right leg after a car hit him. The vehicle is on campus and we are trying to find out who drove it.... It is not known yet whether it was driven by anyone present at the event today (Friday)."

In a statement, the ABVP alleged that former JNUSU president Mohit Pandey, of the CPIML-Liberaton-backed All India Students Association, was at the wheel of the car that hit guard Yogesh Yadav. They also shared images of a bloodied arm of a student named Gaurabh, saying that he was attacked during the clash.

Pandey was not reachable by phone. Goraya claimed that he was assaulted by a group of ABVP supporters.

Pandey later posted videos that showed JNU security trying to shield a sedan - that belongs to one Presenjit Gautam - from people breaking its glasses and trying to pull Pandey out. Pandey says the guard was injured while trying to protect him.

Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani tweeted: "That physical attack on former JNUSU president Mohit Pandey is an attempt to traumatize this fearless youth, The way he was attacked is most shocking. We all are with Mohit and we not only condemn the cowardice act but seek immediate arrest of ABVP goons who have done this."

The film screening and protest unfolded at Sabarmati Dhaba on the campus - the same spot where the commemoration of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's death anniversary took place in 2016. That had led to three students being arrested for sedition, although the chargesheet is yet to be framed against them.

JNUSU vice president Simone Khan said: "Mohit Pandey was chased and pulled out of his car and thrashed. The car windscreen was smashed by an ABVP supporter who injured his hand doing so. We, including Mohit, are at the Vasant Kunj North police station to file a complaint against the ABVP for attacking students, screening a film to incite communal tension and misusing the image of Hadiya on their posters to call her marriage a love jihad despite the SC upholding it."