Autocracy is at its peak.
It is leading this diverse country towards a single reality. A reality that has hazardous consequences like eroding our constitutional values. Two significant features of this process are ‘exclusion’ and ‘standardisation’ – exempting people from having conflicting political opinions, dissimilar food habits, divergent choices and forcing upon them a ‘uniform rulebook’, imagining life beyond which can land you in trouble. The kind of trouble that may even lead to a lynching.
At this juncture of this terrifying time, it is inside the institutions for higher education where flowers of resistance bloom. Resistance brings students to rallies, makes them shout slogans, wear black bands, use words as weapons, go to villages, educate the general public and document it.
But the question is whether our students’ insightful and dissenting voices of resistance have enough space in the public sphere to reach a larger audience. The kind of audience who are not exposed to a liberal university space. In such cases, documentaries do help. Documentaries and short films are the systematic documentation of activities of resistance. It has become a popular method of dissent with the increase of smartphones and decreasing prices of internet packs.
The international film festival of Kerala screened at least 262 documentaries and short films this year but three documentaries were banned from the list. Not so surprisingly, the three documentaries were based on the insubordination of university students to an unjust state mechanism.
The first documentary, “The Unbearable Being of Lightness” covers the series of events in the University of Hyderabad over the institutional murder of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula. “March March March”, the 17-minute long documentary, is made on the JNU protests and the whole debate of ‘nationalism’ and ‘anti-nationalism’. The third one, “In the Shade of Fallen Chinar”, shows how a young group of artists in Kashmir, also students, engage in dissent through paintings. What was common in all the documentaries was the art of questioning – a tool of citizen empowerment.
But then, we have a saffron blended regime.
Against the saffronisation of artistic, cultural, intellectual spaces in the country, where the voices of students across the subcontinent are being mercilessly silenced, it again becomes the responsibility of students to create their own space and to expand it, so that more people could be accommodated in them.
Challenging the fascist moves of the central government, the Azad-Mann (free spirit) Students’ Club of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad has given a call to screen all the three documentaries banned by the the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, inside the campus, as part of its ‘Ban Week’.
“The Unbearable Being of Lightness” was screened on June 19, and triggered a good discussion within the campus. The audience unanimously condemned the ban and termed it ‘anti-democratic’. Azad-Mann Students’ Club is the brainchild of a few BA students who believe in Babasaheb Ambedkar’s idea of ‘Educate, Agitate, Organise’.