Symbiosis University has cancelled the screening of documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak's Jashn-e-Azadi on Kashmir, after the right-wing student organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), raised objections to its ‘separatist' nature. The film was supposed to be screened at a three-day national seminar called ‘Voices of Kashmir' at the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, organised in association with the University Grants Commission (UGC) on February 3, 4 and 5.
The organisation now wants the entire seminar cancelled, ABVP Pune unit Secretary Shailendra Dalvi told The Hindu on Saturday evening. “The content of the seminar, like the film, is anti-India, and against the Indian Army. We will not stand for anything that divides the country. Symbiosis has agreed to cancel the film screening, and we are giving them three days' time to think about the event, too,” Mr. Dalvi stated.
Last week, Jaipur Literature Festival organisers were forced to cancel a videoconference with author Salman Rushdie after protesters threatened to disrupt the event.
Speaking to The Hindu over telephone, Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce principal Hrishikesh Soman stated that the ABVP had approached him on Friday, and that the college agreed to cancel the film screening “considering their [ABVP's] emotions and feelings.” “I told them that the seminar is entirely academic, apolitical and non-religious. But the film has met with criticism from all corners. So we have decided to avoid unnecessary controversies and cancel the screening,” Mr. Soman said. “If people have a very strong reason to protest the film, then we should be tolerant enough,” he stated. The seminar will be attended by senior journalist and Jammu and Kashmir interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar, among others.
Asked if the college would cancel the event altogether, Mr. Soman said: “After the first meeting, the ABVP has not made such a request yet. If they do, then we will try to sort it out.” Asked if the cancellation of the film screening withheld the students' right to experience and discuss all sides of the Kashmir conflict, Mr. Soman said: “I don't want to get into petty issues. The seminar will be purely intellectual, and will focus on socio-cultural and educational issues in Kashmir.”
Mr. Soman said Mr. Kak had been “informed categorically” that the film screening had been cancelled. Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Kak stated he would be attending the seminar in spite of the cancellation. “I will utilise the two hours given to me and talk about what I want to talk about,” he said. Mr. Kak is scheduled to deliver a presentation on “Speaking about Kashmir” on February 3. His film, Jashn-e-Azadi, made in 2007, explores the meaning of azadi (freedom) in violence-gripped Kashmir.
Apart from Mr. Kak and Mr. Padgaonkar, the panel of speakers includes Hamid Marazi, Zaffar Iffat Fatima, M.K. Raina, Pran Kishore, Sanjay Nahar, and Babali Saraf. Iffat Fatima's documentary Where Have You Hidden My New Crescent Moon will be screened at the seminar, a press note stated.