Students’ plea on the words borrowed from a Faiz Ahmad Faiz poem falls on deaf ears, as director terms it sullying of the revamped canteen and breach of discipline

In a step that has drawn severe criticism from students “for curbing freedom of expression”, the administration of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) has asked two inmates to vacate their hostel rooms by Saturday for drawing graffiti on the walls of the newly renovated canteen on July 4.

The facility at FTII was renovated and inaugurated on July 3. Security guards at the canteen found two students — one from the 2012 direction batch and the other from the 2016 camera batch — drawing graffiti early on July

4. According to the administration, the guards confronted the students but they continued “defacing” the walls.

Students have drawn a few graffiti, which included words like “hum dekhenge”, from a poem by Faiz Ahmad Faiz. On July 5, both the students — one from Kerala and the other from West Bengal — were issued notices to vacate their hostel rooms by July 7.

On the other hand, several students gathered on the campus and showed their displeasure against the institute for issuing such notices on regularly. Robin Joy, president, FTII Students’ Association, said, “Drawing graffiti on the walls of FTII has always been a way of expression for students. This is not the first time we have had graffiti on the wall. Also, the two students are not from Maharashtra and if they are removed from the hostel all of a sudden, it will be difficult for them to find accommodation. We also tried convincing the directors that the words written are not threatening or intentional but just borrowed from a poem but we have been misunderstood.”

Joy added that there have been too many restrictions on students since the past couple of years. “For every small thing, we have to seek permission from the administration. We are also getting notices for various trivial issues. This is nothing but institutional harassment. It is definitely not easy to get admission in this institute and we have also heard a lot about its rich history and how seniors have displayed their creativity on campus. If drawing graffiti was wrong then the institute should have taken a different punitive measure. Removing students from the hostel is not right.”

According to the notice, the two students will also have to leave the campus daily after 7 pm and will not be allowed on campus during weekends. In case students want an exception, they will have to take permission from the administration. Echoing Joy, another student said, “Earlier, it was easy for us to organise programmes on campus but for the same, now we have to seek permission three weeks in advance. The institute is supposed to encourage freedom of expression but for every other reason, the administration threatens us with security guards who have been given power to even detain us.”

FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola said, “Two students have drawn graffiti with intimidating slogans and defaced the wall and doors of our revamped canteen. The act was carried out stealthily in the dead of the night. The act by the students is unacceptable. Several FTII alumni, many of them leading industry lights, who had welcomed the complete makeover of the canteen are aghast at this defilement. They have also condemned the duo’s act. Many students, staff members and teachers are also saddened by this act of gross indiscipline.”

While the administration has also asked the students to apologise for their deed and clean the graffiti from the wall, the latter have reverted by saying that such notices not be issued as they are not children. Joy said, “We are not kids anymore and should not be made to apologise. Removal of students from hostel just for drawing graffiti is unacceptable.”