Jadavpur University was on the boil on Friday over the campus screening of Vivek Agnihotri’s film “Buddha In A Traffic Jam” that faced loud protests from a large section of students and led to clashes.
Alleging that four of the organisers had molested female students, the left-leaning students affiliated to FETSU confined them inside the campus and resorted to sloganeering and brandished posters saying “ABVP go back”, “RSS go back”, “down with Fascism”.
Tension increased after dusk as activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS-affiliated student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad collected outside the varsity gate and raised slogans demanding the four be rescued and handed over to them.
BJP’s actress-turned-leader Rupa Ganguly filed a complaint at the Jadavpur police station that the four people – invited for the screening of the award-winning film – were beaten up and wrongly confined on a false accusation.
They staged a demonstration at the police station and then rushed to the university.
“We have come to take the four of our invitees safely home. They have been beaten up. They are in a bad condition. We will wait for ten minutes. And then our people will take one minute to climb the gates and enter the campus,” said BJP leader Debasree Chowdhury.
As the situation threatened to go out of control, with a huge collapsible gate separating the belligerent BJP-ABVP activists and the students, Vice Chancellor Suranjan Das rushed to the varsity in a taxi and pleaded with the two sides to maintain peace and see reason.
Das met the students a number of times but his attempts to bring the four out failed twice. He finally succeeded on his third attempt as the registrar and other officials with the help of the security personnel brought them out of the campus.
“Three ABVP activists and a professor of Bangabasi College were confined. One of the activists was senseless. Three have been hospitalised,” said ABVP state secretary Souvik Haldar.
“We have filed a case seeking those who tortured and confined them be punished. We will expect action. We will organise a movement on this issue,” he added.
The screening, organised by a group “Think India” backed by theABVP, was scheduled at the varsity’s Triguna Sen auditorium, but the university’s alumni association cancelled the screening on Friday morning citing poll code violation.
Despite the protests and cancellation, an open-air screening was held in the varsity’s football grounds close to the auditorium.
However, the varsity’s assistant registrar requested the showing be stopped, said Agnihotri, who was shown black flags by the students.
“We started the screening and I asked the leader of the protest to have a cup of tea with me. Then the assistant registrar came from somewhere and asked us to stop the screening. I don’t know what kind of a university it is, they can’t even decide whether the film can be shown or not shown,” Agnihotri told IANS.
Asked why there were protests against his film, Agnihotri said: “Because for the first time in 70 years somebody has dared to expose the Naxal-academia-intellectuals-media nexus.”
But the protesting students said: “Preaching divisiveness and Hindu fundamentalism should not be allowed on the campus.”
On the other hand, the organisers drew attention to the simultaneous screening of Nakul Singh Sawhney’s controversial documentary “Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baki Hai” inside the campus, a stone’s throw away from the “Buddha… ” screening.
Inspired by Agnihotri’s own life, “Buddha In A Traffic Jam” deals with corruption and Maoism in a business school. The film features actors Mahie Gill, Aanchal Dwivedi, Pallavi Joshi, Anupam Kher, Arunoday Singh and Vivek Vaswani.
The film had attracted controversy earlier when its screening was sought to be cancelled at Jawaharlal Nehru University due to the volatile atmosphere there in the wake of the sedition charges levelled against some students.
However, the film was later screened on campus with Kher, a critic of the students agitation, in attendance.