A Demand to Restore the Stature and Reputation of FTII: Statement by Media Scholars and Teachers

PUBLIC STATEMENT BY MEDIA SCHOLARS AND TEACHERS ON FTII

As teachers, scholars and researchers of the media we are deeply disturbed by the obduracy and high-handedness shown by the authorities to the legitimate issues and questions raised by the students of FTII who have been on strike since June 12, 2015.

It has now been established that Gajendra Chauhan, an official member of the BJP since 2004, was chosen to be the Chairman of the Governing Council and consequently, President of the FTII Society for his loyalty to the party and not because he has any credentials to occupy these posts. A `star campaigner” for the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections, Chauhan’s only claim to visibility has been his role as Yudhisthir in the TV series Mahabharata and his role in the current controversy. He does not possess any professional or academic qualification that makes him remotely eligible for the job.  It is a an absolute travesty that Chauhan should be handed a chair that has in the past been occupied by nationally and internationally recognized personalities like UR Ananthamurthy, Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mahesh Bhatt and Mrinal Sen.

Chauhan’s is not the only scandalous appointment. Four out of the eight appointees to the FTII society, Anagha Ghaisas, Rahul Solapurkar, Narendra Pathak and Pranjal Saikia, have strong Hindutva links and believe that a “new thought process” should be introduced into FTII. Ms Ghaisas, who made a hagiographic film on Narendra Modi called `A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership’, has declared that FTII should instil “nationalistic feelings” in its students. “Narendra Pathak who believes that “mischief maker’s working against the government should be suitably punished”, is former president of the ABVP, the organization that physically assaulted some FTII students and others after a screening of Patwardhan’s Jai Bhim Comrade at the National Film Archive of India, Pune, organized by some Dalit organizations.  Both Ghaisas and Pathak were appointed under the `person of eminence category’.

Through its dubious appointments not just in FTII but other key institutions like ICHR, ICCR, NFDC, NBT, CBFC, Prasar Bharati, the IIMs and the IITs, the current government has made it amply clear that they have no respect for qualifications, eligibility critera, academic accomplishment or professional reputation. What is important for them, it appears, is that their appointees should be loyalists of the Sangh Parivar. This brazen political imposition is a frontal attack on the idea of institutional autonomy and academic excellence.

The FTII is a premier institution whose alumni have distinguished themselves not only in India but all over the world. Today the Bombay film industry is literally run by the expertise of professionals who have passed out of this institute. A traditional strength of FTII education has been that it imparts professional training in an environment that is intellectually vibrant.  Despite persistent problems that have plagued the institute, the students share a progressive vision that today has come to collide with that of the current government.

We urge the government against taking any steps that would harm the career and interests of the students. We suggest that the current Governing Council is held passive till the FTII society is reconstituted. Till such time an interim body, acceptable to all stakeholders, should be constituted to supervise the transition.

We sincerely hope that the government will pay heed to the legitimate concerns of the students and alumni of the FTII and take constructive steps that will break the impasse and win back the confidence of the students.

 

Shohini Ghosh, Sajjad Zaheer Professor, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Ravi Vasudevan, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi

Ranjani Mazumdar, Professor, Department of Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

K.P. Jayasankar, Professor and Dean, School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Moinak Biswas, Professor, Department of Film Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata

Anjali Monteiro, Professor, School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Sabeena Gadihoke, Associate Professor, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Ira Bhaskar, Professor, Department of Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Ravi Sundaram, Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi

Patricia Uberoi, Formerly Professor of Sociology, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi

Veena Hariharan, Assistant Professor, Department of Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Shikha Jhingan, Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism, Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi

Venkatesh Chakravarthy, Regional Director, L.V. Prasad Film & Television Academy, Chennai

Madhavi Reddy, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Communication Studies, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune

Alka Hingorani, Associate Professor, IDC, IIT-Bombay, Mumbai

Shaibani Azam, Professor, Digital Graphics and Animation, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Kaushik Bhaumik, Associate Professor, Department of Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Sabina Kidwai, Associate Professor, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Madhav Prasad, Professor, English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad

Sohail Akbar, Associate Professor, AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Sujithkumar Parayil, Assistant Professor, Centre For Media Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Gayatri Chatterjee, independent film critic, and Faculty, Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, Pune

Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Raqs media Collective, co-initiator, SARAI, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

Satish Poduval, Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad

Rashmi Doraiswamy, Professor, MMAJ Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia

Jeebesh Bagchi, Raqs media Collective, co-initiator, SARAI, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

Faiz Ullah, Assistant Professor, School of Media & Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

S.V Srinivas, Professor, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

Uma Bhurgubanda, Assistant Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the statement belong to that of the signatories and do not represent the position of their affiliated institutions.

One thought on “A Demand to Restore the Stature and Reputation of FTII: Statement by Media Scholars and Teachers

  1. Adi

    Well wishers of FTII and other Indian academic institutions bemoan that BJP has “no respect for qualifications, eligibility critera, academic accomplishment or professional reputation”, the implicit assumption is that only those with, respectful qualifications, eligibility critera, academic accomplishment or professional reputation must run these institutions.

    The above assumption, though well intentioned, will have no traction with the Sangha because before assuming power the Sangha used to view education in India as not adequate.

    The BJP fought the general election with a theme of “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat!” That they desire to have only one narrative of India was quite clear from the word go. No media house interrogated the BJP about its education policy. The BJP also had not made clear who would be the shadow education minister.

    Had it been so it would have been indeed nice, as citizens, to observe, Ms Irani locked in three or four debates with Mr Sibal or Mr Tharoor over their interpretation of education on television, wouldn’t it?

    According to the BJP, “education is the most powerful tool for the advancement of the nation” (http://www.bjp.org/images/pdf_2014/full_manifesto_english_07.04.2014.pdf )

    The purpose of education is to make students “proud of their culture, heritage and history and also for creating confidence in the vitality of India”, these objectives, according to the BJP, were not fulfilled during UPA rule.

    It is only when, “Education accords due emphasis on national integration, social cohesion, religious amity, national identity and patriotism” that students can be proud of Indian culture, heritage and history.

    Clearly the BJP thinks that purpose of education is that each student must feel about culture, history and heritage in a particular manner. Such feeling can only arise amongst students when values such as a singular national identity, patriotism etc are part of environment.

    The fact that BJP appoints RSS affiliated people to run institutions does not come as a surprise. This is what the BJP wanted to do as it is quite clear from their election manifesto.

    It is also clear to everyone that BJP believes only those who come from Sangha background know the correct interpretation of national integration, social cohesion, religious amity, national identity and patriotism.

    The current narrative between protesting students and the BJP does not seem to be at odds with each other because there is no dialog, no debate. The government is silent, so is the BJP, the RSS has labelled protesting students as anti-Hindu. Public apathy seems to be setting in.

    There has to be a change in line from protesters in order to garner public opinion in their favour.

    Protestors must retain their demand for qualifications, eligibility, accomplishment or reputation but not articulate it in a dry utilitarian manner instead protestors must emotionally explain to public how ancient Hindu scriptures, stories and traditions suggest these qualities are essential for teachers.

    Protestors must give reasons why purpose of education is not to feel proud of an imagined mono- culture, heritage or history but to think, question, debate, resist, critique, imagine, argue and refute. It is only and only by refutation that conjectures can be improved. The purpose of education is a constant improvement of ideas, it is not and cannot be a constant feeling of pride.

    The Sangha believes Hindus are their “maal”, the protestors must claim Hinduism and its interpretation about education, teaching and purpose of education.

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