It was not only right wing pressure to which Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce succumbed while cancelling the screening of Sanjay Kak's film on Kashmir, Jashn-e-Azadi, in the coming national seminar, but also police interference. Sources in the Pune police told The Hindu on Sunday that the Special Branch had written to the college and asked it to refrain from showing the film.

This was confirmed by Symbiosis college Principal Hrishikesh Soman. He revealed that he had indeed received a letter signed by Special Branch Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Makrand Ranade on January 24. “The letter stated that the film is controversial and hence we must avoid screening it. We readily agreed, as we did not want to create any problem,” Mr. Soman told The Hindu.

However, Mr. Ranade refused to comment.

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) had objected to the screening of the film at the three-day national seminar, ‘Voices of Kashmir,' to be organised by Symbiosis University in association with the University Grants Commission (UGC). ABVP city unit secretary Shailendra Dalvi told The Hindu that the Parishad had written to the police asking them to cancel the film screening.

“It was an accident”

In retrospect, Mr. Soman said the decision to screen the film was an “accident.” “Somebody told us that screening would add value to the seminar. But it was never our main focus. You can say, including it in the schedule was an accident.”

Asked if it was the opposition from the ABVP and the police that prompted him to make the statement, Mr. Soman said: “We are all responsible people. If the protest wasn't so strong, we would have certainly gone ahead with it.” However, he acknowledged that he had not watched the film.

Mr. Kak had told The Hindu on Saturday that he would attend the seminar in spite of the film screening being cancelled. “We have told Sanjay ‘No controversies',” Mr. Soman said. “We have asked him to speak about anything else, but not politics.”

Mr. Soman reiterated that the aim of the seminar was to expose the students to the “way a common man lives in Kashmir, without politicising the entire issue.” “We will talk about socio-cultural aspects in Kashmir: the music, food, media, literature and entertainment. Why talk only about politics?”

Asked if a university like Symbiosis should have taken a stand on a sensitive issue like this, Mr. Soman said: “We are taking a stand and it is that we want to create a platform for discussion.”

Seven students from Srinagar University would attend the seminar. In November last, students from Symbiosis visited Kashmir.

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