Proving that communal tension exists even within the hallowed halls of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), a heated argument broke out at IISc on Wednesday after a documentary was screened on the campus about the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
The documentary, Ram Ke Naam, which is Anand Patwardhan’s controversial take on the 20-year-old issue, was screened by a student body that has representatives from both IISc and the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS).
When the documentary began, some students got into an argument with the organisers over its controversial content. By the time the documentary got over, the two groups erupted into a loud argument that left several members of the audience at loss for words.
Much of the problem arose from the posters used by the organisers. The posters contained a blurb from Patwardhan himself, describing Vishwa Hindu Parishad as a “militant group”.
“They plastered these posters, calling the VHP a ‘militant group’ all across the hostels in the campus. There is already some communal tension because of it and because of these posters, there are also counter posters put up in the hostels. They are just trying to cause trouble by screening this documentary, which is full of lies and does not even want to discuss the facts,” said a PHd student from IISc who did not wish to be named.
The student body group, on the other hand, said they simply wanted to screen the documentary to mark the 20th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition.
They also noted that several students from the IISc had written to the Students’ Council prior to the screening to get it canceled. The Students’ Council, in turn, wrote to the registrar and the public relations officer of the institute. While the administration gave the group the green signal to screen the documentary, the PRO was present the entire time.
“I just want to clarify that this documentary was not screened on behalf of the IISc but by the students’ group called Concern,” he said. Overall, the public screening was attended by close to 150 people, most of whom were from the IISc.
While the scuffle between the protesters and the organisers never turned physical, one of the protesters raised the slogan ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai‘.
BELOW IS A REACTION FROM RAVI, WHO WAS THERE AT THE SCREENING
From: ravi <[email protected]>
Date: 15 December 2012 23:34
I went for the documentary screening and find this report very
problematic, right from the way it is pitched: “communal tension” in
the “hallowed halls” of IISc! The problem wasn’t one of “communal
tension”, it was more a reaction by a small group of rabidly
pro-Hindutva students to a film they feared would expose the Hindutva
movement’s blood-stained past and give the lie to its claim to
represent all Hindus.
The report describes the documentary as Anand Patwardhan’s
“controversial” take on the Ramjanbhoomi-Babri Masjid issue, and
attributes much of the problem to the publicity posters which
described the VHP as “militant”. Is any popular anti-Hindutva work
non-controversial? Why should a work be defined by the ruckus raised
by the Hindutva forces? If an adjective was badly needed, why not
“award-winning” instead of “controversial”? As for describing the VHP
as militant, I too find it problematic since the term has a fairly
neutral meaning; “fascist” would have been more accurate.
Here is my understanding of how the events unfolded. The screening was
organised by a student group called Concern
<http://www.facebook.com/pages/Concern-IISc/142948592461127>. Once the
screening was finalized, and necessary permissions taken from the
appropriate IISc authorities, publicity posters were put up. A motley
group of rabidly pro-Hindutva IISc students swung into action, put up
misleading counter-posters, and persuaded the Students Council
President to write to the IISc public relations officer recommending
cancellation of the film. A petition was also circulated to this
effect, and it apparently got about 100 signatures. However, Concern
folks got wind of this action, and eventually managed to let the
screening go ahead with an important caveat — there was to be no
discussion after the screening, and Concern was responsible for
evacuating the audience out of the venue once the film ended. There
was considerable uncertainty about whether the event will go ahead
until the day of the screening … The pro-Hindutva students also
threatened a legal suit if the posters describing the VHP as
“militant” were not removed, but (I think) Concern didn’t budge.
About 150-200 people came for the screening. I was about five minutes
late, but heard from a friend that when the organisers attempted a
brief intro to the film, the Hindutva group (sanghis) started shouting
and the screening was started hurriedly without an intro. Not that it
kept the sanghis quiet though. They continued to shout once in a
while, either when they were particularly aggrieved (as when none of
the Hindutva supporters interviewed in the film seemed to know exactly
when Rama was born; a sanghi in the audience asserted that Rama was
born 9.5 lakh years ago, and claimed fossil evidence to this effect!)
or to express approval for Narendra Modi or an egregious character on
screen (like when Advani barked “Mandir Wahin Banayenge” — we’ll
build the temple THERE). I think the guy who set Rama’s age at 9.5
lakh years departed midway through the screening, perhaps embarrassed
at his antics and not wanting to be identified in public (much like
the anonymous sanghi quoted in the DNA report). Another one shouted
out a suggestion: invite Subramanian Swamy to know the truth about
When the film ended, the sanghis who had stayed back started shouting
immediately. Concern folks tried to get everyone out of the room
immediately, but the sanghis wanted a captive audience. It later
turned out that they haven’t been able to muster such big audiences
for their events, so wanted to have a say then and there. In the words
of one of them, paraphrased as I remember: “When we have some events
to talk about corruption or issues of national interest, no one turns
up. But for this biased documentary, so many have come.” The room was
soon cleared, and a shouting match ensued outside. The Sanghis
departed with cries of “Jai Shri Ram, Bharat Mata ki Jai, Concern is a
Naxalite group, Ban Concern” etc. For me, this was a good taste of
sanghi thuggery when they lack numbers and don’t have the active
support of the administration. Friends told me that a similar
screening in other campuses, such as Hyderabad Central University
which has a strong ABVP unit, would be more fraught with danger.
Likewise for events outside university campuses.
All in all, this event was an interesting contrast to the previous
screening of Ram Ke Naam that we had organised several years ago at
UIUC. The sanghis at UIUC didn’t want to crawl out of the woodwork and
stand exposed for their politics, but it turns out some of the sanghis
at IISc felt no such restraint. Perhaps they expected some support
from the neutral section of the audience, and when none was
forthcoming their boorishness took over. Such hostility to a
two-decade old documentary makes one wonder how much more rabidly they
would react to an event on contemporary Hindutva, or its practice in