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Defiant Indian students to hold more screenings of BBC documentary on Modi

NEW DELHI: Indian students said they would show again a BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the government has called propaganda. On Tuesday, a screening on a campus was stopped when the power went out and opponents tried to scare people away.

The general secretary of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) told Reuters on Wednesday that the documentary “India: The Modi Question” will be shown in every Indian state.

A news station called NDTV said that police at a university in New Delhi detained more than a dozen students on Wednesday before the screening.

The documentary called into question Modi’s leadership during riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002. Modi’s government called it “propaganda” and stopped it from being shown. It has also stopped people in India from sharing any clips on social media.

During the violence, Modi was the chief minister of the western state, where most of the people who died were Muslims. Human rights activists say that about 2,500 people have died.

Mayukh Biswas, general secretary of the SFI, the student branch of the Communist Party of India, said, “They won’t silence dissent” (Marxist).

The Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi warned students on Tuesday not to get together without permission before the SFI screening of the BBC documentary on Wednesday evening.

According to the broadcaster, police then detained more than a dozen students there about an hour before the screening.

The Delhi Police couldn’t say right away if any students were being held, but they did say that there were a lot of police and security forces with riot gear at the university.

The police said that the deployment was “to keep the peace” because of both the screening and India’s Republic Day on January 26.

In December 2019, protesters, including students, fought violently with the police over a new law that makes it hard for Muslims in countries next to India to get citizenship.

After the power went out at Jawaharlal Nehru University on Tuesday, Aishe Ghosh, a student leader, said that hundreds of students watched a BBC documentary about cell phones and laptops.

The university had said that there would be consequences if the documentary was shown.

“It was clear that the government turned off the power,” Ghosh said. “We are encouraging campuses across the country to hold screenings as a form of resistance against this censorship,” Ghosh said.

When asked what they thought about the power outage on campus, the media coordinator for the university did not say anything.

Ghosh said that some students who wanted to watch the documentary were hurt when members of a right-wing student group threw bricks at them. The students who were hurt went to the police and told them what happened.

A message sent to a member of the right-wing student group did not get a response.

A police spokesman did not answer questions right away.

The 2002 violence in Gujarat started when a suspected Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. This was one of the worst religious killings in India since it became independent.

At least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in retaliation attacks in Gujarat over the course of several days, when large groups of people roamed the streets and specifically targeted the minority group.

Critics say that Modi doesn’t protect Muslims well enough. Modi denies the accusations, and an investigation ordered by the Supreme Court found no evidence to bring charges against him. Last year, a petition that questioned whether he was innocent was thrown out.

The BBC said that the documentary was “rigorously researched” and included a wide range of voices and opinions, including those of people in Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.