Friday, March 1, 2024

Kerala: RSS disrupt public screening of ‘Ram Ke Naam’ by film school students, issues death threats

Hindu nationalists associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gave death threats and disrupted the public screening of Anand Patwardhan’s award-winning documentary, Ram Ke Naam organised by students of KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts (KRNNIVSA), in Kerala’s Kottayam district.

Students alleged that a mob of more than 20 people belonging to different age groups threatened to kill them, hack their limbs and legs, and beat them by entering the campus if the film was screened.

A video shared by students of men wearing saffron shawls making threats corroborates the allegations. Police can be seen alongside the mob. One of the men purposefully revealed his underwear to the students making abusive comments.

The screening was organised by the students’ council of India’s third National Film Institute managed by the Kerala government on the evening of January 22, 2024, the day of the consecration Ram Temple on the ruins of the historic Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya.

Due to the stand-off with the mob, police allegedly told the students to change the screening venue to the confinement of the campus.

Students’ council chairperson, Sreedevan K Perumal, told Maktoob: “The decision to screen Ram Ke Naam in public within the campus gate limits was to remind the people again that Ram Mandir in Ayodhya came up only after the demolition of Babri Masjid. 204 million Muslims are living in India who are in pain and we are answerable to them. So for them, we planned the screening which was endorsed by the majority of students of the campus after the council shared the idea”.

Sreedevan and other students told Maktoob that police misbehaved with students and one of the officers verbally abused a student

“RSS started heckling us only after police came and till that time they were only forming crowds,” the chairperson said claiming police tore and removed the banners by students on the whims of the mob.

One of the banners said: “If memory is a textbook, Babri is our constitution”.

“From the side of the mob, there were also threats of social boycott and non-cooperating with the institution. For academic purposes, we need help from the locals. But we won’t fall to these threats and we will look for other alternatives. We should stand for democracy and freedom and fight majoritarianism which is inhumane,” Director of the institute and actor, Jijoy Pulikal Rajagopal told Maktoob.

“By obstructing the screening, they are exposing their political character. When RSS was screening the Ram Mandir ceremony near our college and distributing sweets, we didn’t oppose it. But these fascists are suppressing whatever dissents against them,” Aswin, a student of the institute, told Maktoob.

In a video, the students can be heard saying to police that they won’t remove their banners. The mob warned to prevent the screening inside the campus too.

But despite threats, students screened the film inside the campus, attended by students and faculties. The mob dispersed the premises only by 10.30 pm after an hours-long standoff.

Vice Chairperson of the student council, Meghna told Maktoob, “The actions that resulted in the delay of a documentary screening on historical events in Ayodhya due to threats and abuses by the Sangh Parivar in a state like Kerala is condemnable and this is when the title of the documentary makes sense.”

“The language used by police was unparliamentary and we resisted it decently at that moment itself by asking them to behave properly. The student council condemns the action of the police and we are planning to take necessary steps about it with the government,” Sreedevan added.

Expressing protest against the fascist act of RSS in the presence of police, Film actor and activist Jolly Chirayath told Maktoob, “Encroachment of cultural spaces by Sangh Parivar in Kerala should not be allowed. Violating the rights of the students to screen the documentary cannot be tolerated. Arrangements should be made for the students to screen the documentary outside the campus. Just because they are students, it doesn’t mean they should only screen it inside the campus. The government should immediately act on this issue and take stringent actions against the police officer who abused the student.

“It is completely shocking to know that police stood by the RSS, especially in the state of Kerala which is not ruled by the BJP. The film has a U censor certificate and it was cleared by the censor board in 1992 which means that it can be screened anywhere in the country. It has also won the national award for the best investigative documentary. The Bombay High Court, in 1997, had to order the Doordarshan to telecast it on prime time in 1997 even though there was a so-called secular government in the central. The court had even noted that the film was necessary for the Indians to watch. Now whoever stopping the screening is breaking the law and if the police are helping them, then action should be taken against the police also,” Anand Patwardhan told Maktoob

The 75 minute U certified documentary, Ram Ke Naam (In the name of Ram) which has won awards including the National Film Award for Best Investigative Documentary covered the hate campaign by Hindu nationalist groups including VHP to construct Ram Mandir at the place of Babri Masjid.

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