Condemning the Telangana police for arresting three persons for screening Anand Patwardhan’s documentary Ram ke Naam, movie enthusiasts’ group Hyderabad Cinephiles issued a statement on Monday, January 22 saying that it curtailed their Right to freedom of expression. The group also slammed the Congress-led state government for failing them. They said that the action against them contradicts the position of the Congress, which has vowed to fight against “fascist” organisations like the RSS and the BJP.
“Telangana is a state ruled by the Congress party and this incident is quite telling of their claims of secularism and democracy as the Hyderabad police, instead of acting against the unlawful disruption by the right wing people and ensuring that the screening goes on, clearly acted in an unconstitutional manner at the behest of the right wing goons,” the statement from Hyderabad Cinephiles said.
On January 20, three people – Anand Singh and Parag Varma from Hyderabad Cinephiles, and cafe owner Srujan – were arrested by the Neredmet police for screening Ram ke Naam at Marley’s Joint Bistro, a cafe located in the Sainikpuri area. The documentary by Anand Patwardhan is about the events surrounding the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.
The arrests were made following a complaint by Vishva Hindu Parishad activist Ruthvik Pandrangi, who alleged that his religious sentiments were hurt by the screening. In his complaint, Ruthvik claimed that screening the documentary was “illegal.” He alleged that the movie screening was done deliberately to “create a communal issue” ahead of the Ram Mandir consecration on January 22.
Following this, Anand, Parag, and Srujan were booked under section 290 (Public nuisance) and 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 Hyderabad Cinephiles, Ruthvik barged into the cafe along with 10 others and disrupted the screening. “The screening hadn’t even reached the midpoint when around 10 people entered and disrupted the program. They were pointing their fingers at the organisers and participants yelling, stating that it’s illegal to screen this movie and that their religious sentiments were hurt. They tried to pull and tear the screen. They abused the organisers and used misogynist slurs and termed the organisers as anti-Hindu. They created such a ruckus that the screening had to be stopped midway.”
The police visited the spot later and took the organiser, participants, and the cafe owner to the Neredmet police station. “An organiser and a participant were kept in police lock-up throughout the night. The police did not allow their lawyer to meet them,” Hyderabad Cinephiles said. The police also allegedly confiscated the projector and loudspeaker used for the screening. The mobile phones of one of the organiser and a participant were also seized, they said.
The accused were released on bail on January 21.
Expressing their disappointment against the state’s Congress government, the group said, “The leaders of Congress have openly called the BJP and the Sangh Parivar fascist but this action contradicts those statements. They have emphasised on the need for secularism but this was the time to ensure it, to ensure that the democratic secular rights of people are preserved, but that did not happen.”
“We are afraid that it does not matter which party is in government when it comes to police action. The fascisisation of police and the internal capture of state power by the RSS is clearly the reality of our times (sic),” the statement read.
Meanwhile, AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi also slammed the Telangana police for its action against Hyderabad Cinephiles.
“How is screening an award-winning documentary a crime? If it is, then the Government of India & Filmfare should also be jailed for awarding the movie. Please let us know if we need a pre-screening certificate from the police before watching a movie,” Owaisi posted on X tagging the Rachakonda police.