By Rishvik Chanda:
The protest till now
It has been more than a month since the strike by the students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) began. It followed in the aftermath of appointing Gajendra Chauhan as the chairperson of the FTII. The strike which began on 14th of June has now been explained to be not only about the appointment of Chauhan, but also about the composition of the governing council and the high-handed reaction of the government to dissent.
FTII students are asking for the dissolution of the governing council comprised of members such as Anagha Ghaisas, Narendra Pathak, Rahul Solapurkar and Sailesh Gupta. The 150 students on strike are questioning the appointments of these certain individuals who clearly lack the credentials or the eminence. Another concern raised is the possibility of one overarching ideology taking over, namely the conservative Hindutva or Hindu Nationalism of the RSS.
The latest update and why the protest matters
Instead of allaying the concerns of the students, the government has taken up a stance of disdain and brazen arrogance. “It is the government’s duty to ensure the students are comfortable”, says final year student Aritra Sarkar. He further clarifies, “It is not a battle of ideologies, of the left vs. the right. This protest is about individuals who insist on the existence of only one ideology in a democratic, secular setup”. Shaz Mohammed, a third year student of Cinematography says, “The protest is about freedom and giving students their space. We are asking for more transparency, for a better process of appointment of credible people who understand academics, who understand art.”
Solidarity protests have been organised in Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata and many important artists from Bollywood have also shown their support, including Kiran Rao, Dibakar Banerjee, Anupam Kher, Rasool Pookutty and Rishi Kapoor among many others. At the same time, a lot of accusations have been made against the conduct of the FTII students, but the unfazed students continue to strike with remarkable organisation and coordination, with regular updates on the Facebook page ‘FTII Wisdom Tree’ and a recent article which clarifies the accusations.
On the 15th of July, the students were hoping for a closure through cooperation and talks with the administration, instead they received a rude shock. In an attempt to scare the students into submission, the Director of the institute DJ Narain issued a warning to the students to stop the strike or face rustication. Still the students appear undaunted and continue to strike. This protest raises important issues regarding the attitude of the government, which has repeatedly faced accusations of attempts at saffronisation of education in the country, and its unwillingness to cooperate with its own citizens. “Don’t pollute FTII with your political garbage”, says a sign on the FTII campus. This protest serves as a reminder of our right to question our government without being tagged as ‘anti-nationals’ and our right to practise art in a non-threatening atmosphere.
UPDATE: In a recent development at FTII, the government has decided to replace the Director of the institute, DJ Narain by Prashant Pathrabe, former head of the National Film Archives of India.
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