College Barred From Screening Film

by Manjula Sen,
The Times of India
Bombay, December 26, 1993.

Members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have created a stir in the city’s artistic and cultural circles. On December 19, members of the ABVP stormed the Hinduja College, and “convinced” the authorities to cancel the screening of Ram ke Naam, an award-winning documentary about the Ayodhya issue, scheduled to be screened three days later. They followed this up by demanding that the teacher who had organised the event should give a written apology for screening an “anti-Hindu” film.

On December 20, members of the RSS are alleged to have disrupted a play, Sati performed at the Prithvi Theatre in Juhu, as they felt that the actors were wearing costumes similar to RSS uniforms. The play continued only after the costumes had been changed.

At Hinduja college, Ms Kusum Tripathi, a Hindi professor who has been with the institution for seven years, had organised thefilm’s screening as chairperson of the social services’ group. About 30 per cent of the college’s students belong to the minority community and the homes of several had been burnt in the recent riots. The proceedings .from the sale of tickets was to go partly towards payment for the commercially-run auditorium, while the rest would be given to the affected students. The event was part of the junior college activities, and the TY B.Com students, Ramesh Jadhav, led the ABVP brigade. He led the protest against the film and even objected to the newspaper clippings about the film being displayed on the notice board. The ABVP students then went to the college principal, Mr S.M. Rai, and demanded that the screening be cancelled as it was “against Hinduism.” Although the principal complied in a bid to avert tension, a former Bombay University student council chairperson and ABVP member, Mr Parag Alwani, returned the following Monday to demand that Ms Tripathi should tender a written apology. Ms Tripathi retorted: “I will not apologise.”

The ABVP students were incensed by the reports carried in a Marathi eveninger that said they had threatened the teacher and spoken rudely to the principal. Ms Tripathi stated that she construed their remark warning her of consequences if she showed the film as a threat. However, Mr Rai denied that “the students had threatened anybody. They spoke politely and said the film would hurt the sentiments of the Hindus so I should not show the film.” He said that against the background of the recent riots, he thought it would be advisable to postpone the film show. Mr Rai acknowledged that “some students had asked Ms Tripathi to apologise. When I learnt about it, I insisted that instead they should apoligise to her. They have agreed to do so.” But Ms Tripathi said that the students had not yet apologised.

The National Students’ Union of India ,(NSUI) has protested against the cancelled screening. Remarks Mr Anand Patwardhan, the producer-doctor of Ram Ke Naam, “Why doesn’t the NSUI put pressure on its own party in power to show this obviously relevant film on Doordarshan?” Mr Patwardhan said he was open to the idea of a debate with Mr L.K. Advani after the telecast on the issues raised by the film.” The film,” he said, “differentiated betweem genuine Hindus and secularities and those who tried to use Hindutva for their own political ends.” Ram Ke Naam also shows an interview with the priest who had placed the idols in the Babri Masjid in 1949.

Mr Patwardhan revealed that the film was shown in Ahmedabad and was followed by a “healthy discussion with the ABVP and the RSS supporters who could not refute the fact that the mosque was built in 1528,50 years before the Tulsi Ramayan, was written in Hindi. The Valmiki Ramayan which existed earlier was in Sanskrit and did not lead to the Ram cult.”

The film was also shown at the Kalina campus after the Ayodhya incident. There were no ripples. In Hinduja College, over 500 tickets had been sold to students for Rs 5 each and the money had to be refunded. There has been a demand for the film, however and several students have borrowed the tape from libraries.

ABVP flayed for stalling film
By A Staff Reporter,

The Times of India
Bombay, January 4, 1993

A LARGE number of social, cultural and human rights organisations have strongly condemned the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad for “terrorising a college management, the staff and students into cancelling the screening of an award-winning documentary” on the Ayodhya issue recently. A delegation representing these organisations has submitted a memorandum in this connection to Prof S. M. Rai, principal of the Hinduja College of Commerce, Charni Road, where the incident occured.

According to a statement issued by them later, Prof Rai agreed to screen the film, “Raam Ke Naam” in his college and praised Mr Anand Patwardhan, the filmmaker. The memorandum said that film’s screening was arranged by the social service committee for students of the junior college and 500 tickets had already been sold when the ABVP “prevailed” upon the college to cancel the screening of the film, alleging that it was against the principles of Hinduism. They also demanded that Prof Kusum Tripathi, chairperson of the committee, give a written apology for having displayed the film’s reviews on the notice board.

The 14 organisations condemned the “violent assault on the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression which prevented a legitimate debate on current issues.”

Describing the ABVP as communal, the memorandum said its allegations about the film were “invalid as the film was essentially a reportage of the manner in which hindutva forces used the Babri Masjid-Ramjanambhoomi issue to further political interests in establishing a Hindu Rashtra.

Stressing that they believed that the education system should impart scientific, democratic and secular values, they urged the principal to allow the film to be screened and ensure that the students who threatened Ms Tripathi submit a written apology to her.

The organisations that signed the memorandum are Bombay University and College Teachers Union, Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana, Indian School Of Social Sciences, Committee for Protection of Human Rights, Shramjivika Stree Kruti, Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, Trade Union Solidarity Committee, Ekta Samiti, Nau-jawan Bharat Sabha, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Vidyarthi Pragati Sanghatna, Stree Mukti Sanghatna and the Forum against oppression of women.

Fascist Nature
by Anand Patwardhan

Letter to the Editor,
Times of India, Bombay.

Sir, — Even though your paper carried two reports on the recent attack by the ABVP at Hinduja College which resulted in the cancellation of a screening of my film Ram Ke Naam, the facts and implications about the matter still remain obscured.

First, the facts. On December 19 a group of boys (some students and many outsiders) entered Hinduja College brandishing sticks and rocks. They tore down reviews and publicity material announcing the film and damaged the notice-board. They stated that “blood would flow” if the screening was allowed.

The principal, worried especially for the safety of the minority community students who are 30 per cent in the college, decided to cancel the screening. Emboldened by their success, the ABVP arrived again the next day and demanded that the teacher who had organised the screening tender a written apology. She refused and instead reported the matter to Mahanagar which carried an editorial denouncing the ABVP action.

However, neither of the two reports published by you reflect the fascist nature of the ABVP attack. One, in fact, quotes a clearly shaken principal of Hinduja denying that “my students had threatened anybody. They spoke politely and said that the film would hurt the sentiments of the Hindus, so I should not show the film”.

Is a “polite” threat less frightening than an impolite one? In the present circumstances where fear is palpable, one must go deeper into the matter. Ram Ke Naam has got a U certificate from the Censor Board. It won the Filmfare award for the best Indian documentary of 1992.
Far from being anti-Hindu it gives the lie to the assertion that India’s Hindus have all become fanatics with hatred for Muslims. It shows ordinary people, both Hindus and Muslims, for whom peace and undisturbed livelihood means more than bricks and stones. God is in their hearts and they condemn the politicians and privileged classes who reap the benefits while exhorting others to kill and die in the name of God.

This is the real reason why the ABVP and their like do not want Ram Ke Naam to be shown. They would rather continue to show banned cassettes of Sadhvi Ritham-bara who calls on them to prove their manhood by indulging in genocide.

And what should we do? Should we wait and watch and claim afterwards like many Germans did, “but we never knew”?

Student attempts suicide 

By A Staff Reporter

MATTERS relating to the cancellation of the screening of a documentary on the Ayodhya issue at the Hinduja College, Charni Road, last month snowballed with the attempted suicide yesterday by the student who had led the protest against the film-show. Ramesh Jadhav (21), a student of TYBCom and class representative, consumed an insecticide inside and unoccupied vice-principal’s office and had to be rushed to G.T. Hospital yesterday afternoon, he is now recovering.

There were differing motives attributed to his step, which he took following a meeting with the college principal, Prof S. R. Rai, and in the first statement issued by the ABVP of which he is a member, it was alleged that the principal had threatened to harm his career if he did not apologise to Ms Kusum Tripathi,a professor in the junior college.

It may be recalled that Mr Jadhav had led a group protesting against the showing of Ram Ke Naam”, an award-winning documentary on the Ayodhya issue, in the college, on the ground that it was anti-Hindu. The film had been selected by the social services committee which is chaired by Ms Tripathi and was to be shown in the junior college. However, the cancellation of the film following the protest on Decembr 19, three days before it was to be shown, was picked by an eveninger which angered the ABVP. Mr Jadhav had then demanded that Ms Tripathi apologise for publicising the matter, leading to charges being traded on both sides.

Mr Jadhav today admitted that he had not seen the film but had been provoked by advertisements (reviews) which had been put up on the common notice board for junior and degree colleges. The wiry student, speaking from his hospital bed, insisted however that the film showed sadhus traveling in air-conditioned cars and was propagandist.
He also said that the principal was a good person who had said both parties should now forget the issue but had later insisted that he apologise to Ms Tripathi. Mr Jadhav refused to do so as he had not done anything wrong and accused Ms Tripathi of ‘harassing’ him.

A spokesperson for the ABVP blamed the media for making an issue of it and said the Marathi eveninger that had continuously reported on the issue had led to Ramcsh’s suicide bid. He said he had seen Ram ke Naam and the film was against their ideology. If the film were to be shown at all, it should be shown along with Ayodhya ka Sangram, made by the VHP. Meanwhile, Mr Ganesh Jadhav urged newspapers not to reveal that his brother had not seen the film he was protesting about, as it would distress him further.

The principal, Prof Rai said an independent panel would be named on Monday to inquire into the issue. According to him, Ramesh had met him and the matter had been more or less settled yesterday, when he pointed out that an apology to a teacher would make him a better person. Ramesh had asked for a few days to consider the matter and left the room. Prof Rai denied that he had threatened the student in any way. He also said that it was unlikely
that the documentary would be shown in the near future, if at all.

Meanwhile, teachers of the college expressed their shock at Ramesh’s action and visited him in the hospital. They stated in a press release that he had been pushed into the controversy by communal elements and although earlier willing to apologise to Ms Tripati for allegedly threatening her, had retracted under pressure. They said that he had threatened Ms Tripathi in the staff-room on December 21 and averred that she was a popular teacher. “It is unfortunate that teachers should be threatened by those very elements who claim to uphold Indian culture.”