Gauhati University has allowed half a day’s leave to its officers, teachers and non-teaching staff to watch The Kashmir Files, which two student unions said was “wrong” and “affected the image” of the Northeast’s oldest university.
A March 23 notification issued by the GU registrar said: “An employee will have to obtain prior permission from the concerned reporting authority and submit the movie tickets to his/her respective offices on the next working day.”
The notification said the leave would be in addition to other normally entitled leave and has the approval of the vice-chancellor P.J. Handique.
While the ruling BJP at the Centre and in the states have been backing the movie as a “bold” portrayal of truth surrounding the “genocide” of the Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley and their struggle owing to terrorism in 1990, the Opposition says the film is based on “half-truths” and a “propaganda” against the Muslim community.
Assam is ruled by the BJP and its allies since 2016.
Established on January 26, 1948, GU has over 340 affiliated colleges, 1,100 staffers and 5,400 students. The GU receives financial assistance from the state government and development grants from the University Grants Commission apart from other agencies.
Two leading students’ unions criticised the move, adding they have not heard of any other state varsity issuing such an order.
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) president Dipanka Nath told The Telegraph classes had just started after the Covid-induced lockdown and the university, instead of concentrating on timely holding of classes, examinations and declaration of results, passed such an order
“Not a right move. It is unfair on the students who have suffered for about two years due to the pandemic. GU’s autonomous character has also taken a hit. Had the movie been related to students’ issues or been world class, like the Oscars, it would have been justified. The GU move is not justified at this point of time,” Nath said.
The Satra Mukti Sangram Samiti called for the revocation of the “wrong” decision. “It is a wrong decision... should be revoked because it has affected the university’s image. By this move, the GU has become a part of the ruling BJP’s propaganda for the movie. It (university) should focus on timely completion of classes, holding exams and declaring results. This notice is going to destroy the healthy environment of the university,” SMSS general secretary Pranjal Kalita said.
“I have no comment. I am in meeting now,” VC Handique told The Telegraph.
On March 16, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had announced half-day leave for government employees to watch the Vivek Agnihotri-directed movie, soon after watching the movie with his colleagues here.
Sarma had tweeted: “The Kashmiri Pandit genocide and their exodus are a blot on humanity. Moved by the heart-wrenching portrayal of their plight in The Kashmir Files, which I watched along with my Cabinet colleagues and MLAs and Assam BJP and allies.”
On Friday, Sarma hit out at Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who had criticised the ruling BJP for promoting the film.
“If you don’t want to make #KashmirFiles tax-free,don’t. But stop this constant mocking of Kashmiri Pandits. Their sufferings are a result of such condescending attitude & appeasement politics of secularists. It doesn’t behove a CM to use the Assembly to rub salt in wound of Hindus,” Sarma tweeted.