Three people were arrested by the Neredmet police station in Hyderabad on Saturday, January 20 for screening Ram ke Naam – a famed documentary on the Babri Masjid demolition by Anand Patwardhan– at a cafe in Sainikpuri, Hyderabad. The screening was organised by Hyderabad Cinephiles, a movie enthusiasts’ group which regularly showcases parallel cinema and documentaries in the city. Anand Singh and Parag Varma, two members of the group as well as the cafe owner Srujan were picked up by the police at 9.30 pm.
The arrest was made following a complaint by Ruthvik Pandrangi, a member of the Vishva Hindu Parishad – the organisation which spearheaded the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. In his complaint, Ruthvik alleged that screening the documentary was “illegal.” He claimed that the movie screening was done deliberately to “create a communal issue” ahead of the Ram Mandir consecration on Monday, January 22.
Ruthvik alleged that the discussion by the Hyderabad Cinephiles was against Hindu religion. He claimed that the group made derogatory statements against the VHP. The complainant also stated that he found a few “men with beards” at the screening, which made him suspicious.
Following the complaint, the police have registered a case against Anand, Parag and others under section 290 (Public nuisance), 295A (Outraging the religious feelings) read with Section 34 (When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
According to one of the attendees TNM spoke to, the event began at 7:45 pm with approximately 15 members. Around 8:30 pm, a group of individuals attempted to disrupt the screening by vandalising the venue. “A few more men showed up along with three to four policemen. The police detained seven people, including three women. The police questioned the motive behind screening such movies. We argued that it is within our rights to view the documentary, which is an essential part of history,” the participant said.
Anand Patwardhan's documentary Ram Ke Naam, released in 1992, carefully portrays the 1990s Ram Janmabhoomi movement, offering an extensive overview of its political dynamics and culminating in the Babri Masjid's demolition. It examines the complex relationship between politics and religion. The documentary has been subject to censorship multiple times even though there has been no restrictions placed legally. Notably, Doordarshan aired the documentary during prime time in 1996.
Another attendee said, “Nearly 10 people disrupted the screening. When we went to the police station, there was a larger group monitoring the process to ensure police compliance."
At present two organisers Anand Singh and Parag Varma, and the cafe owner Srujan, are still in custody and would be produced before the magistrate.
Also- Read the TNM series on Ayodhya where we travel back to the turbulent 1990s to see what impact the Ram Janmabhoomi movement had on south India.