Pune, July 31: The relentless campaign launched by students aggrieved by the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) chairman has crossed the 71-day mark. Neither the protesters nor the government have softened their stand. In the process, unprecedented academic loss is suffered by the institution which has been accorded the status of ‘national importance’. However, the deadlock arising in the operation of FTII is not the first one. The premiere institute, which is highly influenced by left intelligentsia, is known for creating uproar if the demands of its powerful students’ council are not entertained. Also Read - Assam Elections 2021: BJP Releases List of 70 Candidates; Fields Sonowal From Majuli, Himanta From Jalukbari
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It is not a matter of dispute whether Gajendra Chauhan is apt for heading an institution of such repute. The public opinion is definitely against him for his lack of caliber. Some of the the most ardent supporters of BJP and RSS have also expressed their disgust over his appointment. Anupam Kher, who is known to have leanings towards the ruling party, has also slammed the decision of government, citing below the par knowledge of cinema which Chauhan possess. Also Read - West Bengal Assembly Election 2021: Suvendu to Get Ticket From Nandigram? BJP to Finalise List of 60 Names Today
But, what lies beyond Gajendra Chauhan’s ineligibility?
The head of FTII is the chairman of its Governing Council. Although the students allege that Chauhan would bring on the table a fundamentalist mindset, he would not get a free hand to take autocratic decisions. The Governing Council makes sure to bring on board the concerns of the Student Council before formulating decisions. The vital resolutions concerning the syllabus, the conduct of operations and the vision of institute is collectively decided by the Governing Council.
The students body have alleged that members of extreme right are being nominated and assigned as members of the Governing Council to influence decision making. The appointment of Anagha Ghaisas and Shailesh Gupta into the Governing Council has also shocked the film and the FTII student fraternities, for the two are known for their propagandist films for the Hindu right wing.
But what should also be considered is the fact that government has indicated no signs to remove the liberal minded members on the board who easily outnumber the ones with conflicting mindset. The very presence of Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who produced ‘PK’, a movie which poked fun at how religion is practiced in country, negates the objections raised by the students’ body. This brings us to our next question,
Is the pro-longed protest an over-reaction?
The FTII fraternity has a long track record of launching stretched protests and mounting undue pressure on the government. In the 55 years of the institution, the Students’ Council has backed 39 protests against the establishment. In 1977, renowned actor Naseeruddin Shah launched a month-long agitation demanding the members of film fraternity to act in students’ film. The protest backfired as the course of acting on a whole was abolished from the curriculum. In 1991, the students protested for 100 days against the structure of instruction in a number of courses. In 1997, students went on a hunger strike demanding fresh teaching patterns and abolishing outdated portion from the syllabus. More recently in 2011, they protested for a week against the Hewitt Associates report on upgrading the institute.
Such protests leads to deadlock in the operations which not only cause academic losses, but also adversely impacts the exchequer, since the government spends Rs 13 lakh subsidy on the education of each student enrolled in the institute which goes vain if the academic sessions remain boycotted.
The government has a right to interfere in operations of institute to some extent, after all, FTII is one of the institutes which is heavily subsidised. Although, there is a rising demand to declare it autonomous, it is impossible to sustain it without official aide.
Why selective accusation of ‘politicisation’?
The FTII students’ association has alleged the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan along with a few other members in the Governing Council as an attempt of politicising the institute. According to them, the institute requires a liberal atmosphere, free from all sorts of political interference which might cause a hindrance in nurturing creative talent. Though their argument is worthy to be considered, it is interesting to note that there was no sign of objection when the former President and appointees of the Governing Council were known for their left leanings, and affiliation to Congress party were appointed.
Former chairman UR Ananthamurthy contested 2004 Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket. He had openly proclaimed that his ideology is anti-BJP. Following his unsuccessful attempt, he went on to preside as the head of FTII. No dissent was sounded over his political links. Mrinal Sen and Girish Karnad are renowned Marxists. They were not questioned for exhibiting an ideological bias. Saeed Mirza, who has been replaced by Gajendra Chauhan, is known for his links with the Congress party since 2004. His NGO Anhad, is alleged to be the social arm of Congress party. However, no mark of protest was seen over his appointment.
Thus, the charge of ‘politicisation’ is absolutely bogus. If Congress was within its rights to appoint people who believed in its ideology, why is the BJP being singled out if it chooses Gajendra Chauhan?