Two days after Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University dramatically cut off power and electricity to the campus to prevent students from screening the controversial BBC series on PM Narendra Modi, students from two other top universities in the national capital -- Delhi University and Ambedkar University -- have faced similar treatment from university administration and the police. Large gatherings have been banned outside DU's Arts Faculty, where a screening was planned, and authorities have disconnected power supply in Ambedkar University to stop another planned screening. A group of students raised slogans and protested at both the universities, several of them were detained by the police.
As the day progressed, more students gathered at the Delhi University's Arts faculty to protest against the imposition of Section 144 in the area to stop the screening. By evening, a huge crowd could be seen clashing with the police and security guards of the university. They raised slogans of "go back Delhi Police" and accused the police of manhandling protesters.
24 students were detained earlier for trying to screen the documentary in DU, a senior police official confirmed.
Like in JNU, the students here had also resorted to watching it on their phones and laptops after a QR code with a link to the documentary was circulated among them. However, more students turned up later, asserting they would hold a public screening.
Sources in the Delhi University administrations had said that no mass screening or public screening will be allowed in the campus. However, if students anyway want to watch it on their phones, that's their discretion.
Police sources said the universities haven't given permission for such screening, and Delhi Police has also been contacted. Talks were earlier held to persuade students to take back the call for the screening on their own, sources said, adding that there will be heavy police deployment for security reasons and action will be taken if students gather for the screening.
Delhi University's Proctor Rajni Abbi says she has written to Delhi Police on the matter, and they will take action.
"We cannot allow the screening of the BBC documentary, as no permission was sought from the administration," she told news agency PTI.
Meanwhile, Jamia Millia Islamia has suspended classes on Friday on the request of students and faculty members, just a day after vice Chancellor Najma Akhtar said that the university "completely foiled" the attempt made by some students to organise a screening. On Wednesday, 13 students of the university were detained for creating a ruckus over organising a screening inside the campus. Delhi Police said the university administration did not allow the screening.
"India: The Modi Question", the BBC documentary series which has kicked up a political storn in India, was banned by the Centre using emergency orders under Section 16 of the IT Rules, 2021.
The order was issued to social media intermediaries to block the content, but not to any individual. If individuals screen the documentary, they cannot be legally penalised for it.
Earlier this week, students' groups at Hyderabad Central University (HCU) -- Student Islamic Organisation (SIO) and Muslim Student Federation known as the Fraternity group -- organised a screening of the documentary inside the campus on Monday. More than 50 students from these groups attended the screening. It was screened again in campus on Thursday, this time by the left students' group SFI.
Left student bodies of West Bengal have also planned to screen the documentary on the campuses of at least two universities of Kolkata.
The Student Federation of India (SFI) screened the documentary at Jadavpur University on Thursday, without intereference from the polise, and will do it at Presidency University on Friday, the state organisation's assistant secretary Subhajit Sarkar said. All India Students' Association (AISA), another Left body, has also decided to screen the documentary on the campus of Jadavpur University on Friday.
The Congress unit in Kerala on Thursday screened the documentary on in Thiruvananthapuram, while the ruling CPI(M)'s students' and youth wings have planned to screen it across the state.
Congress student wing NSUI also screened the documentary in Chandigarh.
The US has described the ban as a matter of press freedom. The US State Department said that it is high time to highlight the importance of democratic principles like freedom of expression and make it a point around the world as well as in India.
Last week, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended Prime Minister Narendra Modi and distanced himself from the BBC documentary series, saying he "doesn't agree with the characterisation" of his Indian counterpart.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) responded to the BBC series by claiming that it was entirely biased, even raising questions on "the purpose of the exercise and the agenda behind it."