In a dark anteroom of the Presidency University canteen here, a handful of students huddled around a screen on Wednesday watching Jashn-e-Azadi, Sanjay Kak's 2007 documentary on Kashmir that was not allowed to be screened at the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce in Pune earlier this week.
While the walls of the canteen are littered with graffiti — political and otherwise — not a single poster was put up to promote this event, which had not been sanctioned by the authorities of the University.
While college authorities at Pune had bowed down to pressure from the right-wing student organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), and cancelled the screening of the film, University authorities here had no idea that it had been screened.
“I know nothing about this. We will have to inquire into this and only then can I comment about it,” said Malabika Sarkar, Vice-chancellor of Presidency University, adding that a few students had approached her requesting permission, but had been told to keep the screening on hold for a week.
“Holding the screening back only seems to be delay tactics. With our examinations scheduled later this month the crowds on campus are already thinning. A week later fewer students would have attended,” said one of the organisers.
“Other than the cancellation in Pune, only one screening in Mumbai was interrupted [in July 2007]. The police were approached by protestors and the screening was interrupted,” Mr. Kak told The Hindu over telephone from Delhi.
Surreptitiously screened and discreetly promoted, the crowd had come to know about the screening through word-of-mouth or from an events page on Facebook. Seated on rickety benches and the floor once the audience began to swell they heard the stories of old men, bereaved women, children, poets and politicians from the Valley.
“You have gathered here today because you want to flag a protest, because you want to send out a signal that students at Presidency College [University] will not surrender their right to be informed about the world, to hear and speak about issues that are central to our times. That's a fundamental right, and we cannot — and will not — surrender that. For making that gesture, and putting your foot down: Zindabad!” Mr. Kak said in a message emailed to the organisers.