Indian university reports power cut ahead of Modi documentary screening

NEW DELHI, Jan 24 (Reuters) – A leading Indian university cut power and internet on campus on Tuesday ahead of a screening by its student union of a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi that India rejected as propaganda, broadcaster NDTV said.

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the capital New Delhi has threatened disciplinary action if the documentary is screened, saying the move could disturb peace and harmony on campus.

Modi’s government has labeled the documentary, which questions his leadership during deadly riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, as “propaganda material”, blocked its broadcast and also banned any clips from being shared via social media media in India.

Modi was the chief minister of the western country at the time of the violence, which killed more than 2,000 people, most of them Muslims.

The JNU Students’ Union, long considered a bastion of leftist politics, was scheduled to screen the documentary “India: The Modi Question” at 9:00 pm (15:30 GMT).

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A person present with students on campus said the documentary was now being watched on cellphones through links shared on Telegram and Vimeo ( VMEO.O ) after the power went out.

“There are about 300 people streaming the documentary now on campus on their phones because the power went out about half an hour before the screening,” the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Footage from inside the campus showed students huddled together watching the film on a laptop propped up on a chair.

JNU’s media coordinator did not comment when asked about reports of internet outages and power outages on campus. An administration source said a power line fault caused outages at faculty residences and other facilities and the problem was being investigated.

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The university’s management previously announced that it had not given permission for the documentary screening.

“This highlights that such unauthorized activity can disturb the peace and harmony of the university campus,” it said.

“The students/individuals concerned are advised to cancel the proposed program immediately, failing which strict disciplinary action may be taken as per University rules.”

Union president Ayshe Ghosh asked students via Twitter to attend the screening, describing it as “‘banned’ by the ‘elected government’ of the largest ‘democracy'”.

Ghosh did not respond to phone calls and a message after reports of a power outage in the campus.

Police vigilance was stepped up following a request from the campus, police said.

The documentary was also screened on some campuses in the communist-ruled southern state of Kerala, The Hindu newspaper reported.

India’s home ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the government’s plans if the film is screened at JNU and in Kerala.

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Violence in Gujarat in 2002 erupted after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, killing 59. Later, mobs rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods. In 2017, 11 men were sentenced to life in prison for setting fire to the train.

Modi rejected accusations that he did not do enough to stop the riots and was exonerated in 2012 after an inquiry overseen by the Supreme Court. Another petition questioning his discharge was rejected last year.

Last week, the BBC said the documentary was “thoroughly researched” and included a wide range of voices and opinions, including responses from people in Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly, Shivam Patel and Rupam Jain; additional reporting by Krishn Kaushik; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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