THE CITIZEN BUREAU Monday, August 3, 2015
FTII students stir gathers momentum
NEW DELHI: Threatened with expulsion, faced with ‘charges’ and possibility of court cases, the students of Pune’s prestigious Film and Television Institute have now shifted their protest against the saffronisation of the Governing Council of the institute to Delhi.
The students, who have managed to stay united, despite the pressures being exerted on them are clear that they theirs is a bipartisan struggle, and that they will not end the strike until the “mediocre” chairman Gajendra Chauhan who has been a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party is replaced.
The students who are being joined by the students union of universities in Delhi as well as individuals, have also managed to elicit the support of the film industry that is wider and more representative of Bollywood than in the past. Actors like Ranbir Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor have supported their demand, as have filmmakers Kiran Rao, Anand Patwardhan, Mahesh Bhat and others. Anupam Kher is also with the students on this, despite the fact that his wife is a BJP MP, with actor and BJP member Shatrughan Sinha offering to mediate between the government and the students with few listeners of course.
The students who were first dubbed as Naxalites and Leftists when filmmakers like Patwardhan visited the campus in their support, are now having to counter the campaign branding them as Congress supporters after Rahul Gandhi went to interact with them in Pune. As Patwardhan told The Citizen, they are neither, they are just students fighting to uphold FTII by shunning mediocrity. He pointed out that Rahul Gandhi had not been invited by the students, and had gone there of his own avail. “Of course his visit is a bit of a joke, but even if it does not help the students, it will not harm them either,” the filmmaker said.
Patwardhan said that the government’s decision to bring in hardline RSS and ABVP members into the FTII council as ‘persons of eminence’ clearly proved that it was bringing its own political agenda into the Institute. These include Anagha Ghaisas, who has a strong RSS background and whose husband was a RSS pracharak. She has made documentary films on the Babri Masjid demolition, and on Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier. ABVP Maharashtra president Narendra Pathak is also a person of eminence, and as Patwardhan recalled, two years ago ABVP members had attacked FTII students with rod for screening his film Jai Bhim Comrade. The list includes office bearer of the RSS linked Sanskar Bharati Pranjal Saikia, and Rahul Solapurkar who by his own admission was seeking a BJP ticket for the last Assembly elections in Maharashtra.
The film industry views the students strike as independent, and a major voice against the politicisation of the institute that has fed Bollywood , television and independent cinema with its batches of filmmakers and actors every year. The support is gathering momentum with the RSS now coming out openly to attack the striking students as “anti-Hindu.”
In an article, RSS magazine Organiser wrote, “”As government appointed Gajendra Chauhan, anti-Hindu fringe elements did what they are best at. They started protest against newly-appointed Chairman of Governing Council. “…All these have made no difference to the so-called well wishers of the institute, because their interest lies not in well-being of the Institute and students but lies in furthering the anti-Hindu propaganda.”
The students have resisted all efforts so far to break their unity with threats and allegations. As they said, “we are in this together.” Filmmakers see in the protest a resistance to attempts to politicise and saffronise institutions including smaller but no less important cultural organisations like the Childrens Film Society.