In Solidarity with the Students of the Film &Television Institute of India (FTII)

We, the undersigned teachers, scholars and researchers within and outside the university system in India, are disturbed by the repeated and systematic attempts to undermine the academic autonomy of universities and other institutions of teaching and learning, such as the FTII (Pune), by the government. There is a concerted effort to monopolise academic spaces by replacing substantive academic autonomy with policies aimed at destroying academic excellence, diversity, creativity and an atmosphere in which students and teachers can think critically and function freely.

Further, we strongly protest the organised attacks against students and other individuals, in universities and elsewhere, for critiquing the state, be it through film screenings, books, talks or exhibitions. The growing number of censorships and bans is encouraging a widespread culture of intolerance and anti-intellectualism that is openly threatening the freedom of academic expression, democractic and participatory governance, and fundamental rights.

  1. We mark our solidarity with the students of the FTII who have been on strike since June 12, 2015. We support their view that Mr. Gajendra Chauhan, an official member of the BJP since 2004, was chosen to be President of the FTII Society and Chairman of the Governing Council for his loyalty to the party and not because he has any credentials to occupy these posts. Mr Chauhan’s appointment is in sharp contrast to previous appointments of nationally and internationally acclaimed personalities such as UR Ananthamurthy, Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Mrinal Sen, each of whom had built solid reputations for themselves in their respective fields. We urge the government to desist from taking any steps that would harm the future of students, as well as the longterm interests of an institute such as the FTII. We suggest that the current Governing Council be held passive until such time as the FTII society is reconstituted. In the interim, a temporary body, acceptable to all concerned, could be put in place in order to supervise the transition.
  1. Through its dubious appointments not just in the FTII but also in other key institutions like the ICHR, ICCR, NFDC, NBT, CBFC, Prasar Bharati, the IIMs and the IITs, among others, the current government has made it amply clear that it has scarce respect for eligibility critera, academic accomplishments or professional reputation. If appointees, including four out of the eight appointees to the FTII society, are chosen on the basis of loyalty to the Sangh Parivar and for commitment to its exclusivist and authoritarian ideology, then institutional autonomy, merit, credentials, professionalism, scholarship, and academic excellence stand destroyed and replaced with propaganda. We demand that professional standards of appointments be re-instituted, and the politics of partisanship stopped.
  1. We strongly condemn the actions of organizations such as the ABVP, which assaulted FTII students when they screened Anand Patwardhan’s Jai Bhim Comrade. Last week the ABVP prevented the screening of a film that seeks to understand the recent riots in Muzzafarnagar and their impact on the lives of people living in the area, at a college in Delhi University, even as all students present wished to continue watching the film. This same group pressurised Delhi University to excise AK Ramanujan’s acclaimed essay on the many Ramayanas from the university syllabus in 2011/12, and continues to act, together with sundry other anti-democratic formations of varied political hues, as a violent extra-legal, self–appointed censor board across campuses in the country. Law Schools, we learn, are now being directed to incorporate a Minister’s books on animal rights as part of the syllabus!

We urge the government to take serious note of the political and administrative processes that are gravely undermining academic and institutional autonomy, substituting dialogue with censorship or violence, creating an atmosphere of fear, and fostering an exclusivist, propaganda-ridden anti-democratic political culture instead of one that encourages citizens to read, write, think, create and speak freely and critically, without fear of community, ‘hurt sentiments’ and God.

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

Signatories:

  • Mukul Mangalik, Dept of History, Ramjas College, Delhi University
  • Keval Arora, Dept of English, Kirori Mal College, Delhi University
  • Vidya Das Arora, Dept of English, Gargi College, Delhi University
  • Dilip Simeon, Historian
  • Sumit Sarkar, Historian
  • Tanika Sarkar, Historian
  • Geeta Kapur, Art Critic
  • Vivan Sundaram, Artist
  • Mary. E. John, Centre for Women’s Development Studies
  • Anand Chakravarti (Department of Sociology) Retd
  • Janaki Abraham, Dept of Sociology, DSE, Delhi University
  • Prabhu P Mohapatra, Department of History, University of Delhi
  • Sohail Hashmi, Writer, Film Maker, Sahmat, Delhi
  • Chitra Joshi, Indraprastha College, Delhi University
  • Nandini Sundar, Sociologist
  • Nivedita Menon, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Shail Mayaram, Historian
  • Ravi S. Vasudevan, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
  • Janaki Nair, Professor, CHS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • G. Arunima, Centre for Women’s Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Gautam Bhan, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore
  • Vinita Chandra, Ramjas College, Delhi University
  • Rani Ray, Department of English, Delhi University (Retd)
  • Radhika Singha, Professor, CHS/SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Rina Ramdev, Venkateswara College, Delhi University
  • Kumkum Roy, Historian, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Deepika Tandon, Miranda House, Delhi University
  • Pratiksha Baxi, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Sachin N, Dyal Singh College
  • Surajit Mazumdar, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Biswajit Mohanty, Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi
  • Ankita Pandey, Indraprastha College for Women, DU
  • Harriet Raghunathan, ex JMC
  • Sandhya D Nambiar, JMC
  • Suvritta Khatri, Deshbandhu College
  • Nikhil Kumar, Senior Accounts Executive, Edelman India
  • Abha Dev Habib, Miranda House, University of Delhi
  • Nilofer Kaul, Hansraj College
  • Saumyajit Bhattacharya, Dept of Economics, Kirori Mal College
  • Ratna Raman, Venkateswara College, University of Delhi
  • Debjani Sengupta, Department of English, I.P. College
  • Mihir Pandey, Department of Economics, Ramjas College
  • N. A. Jacob, Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  • Roopa Dhawan, Ramjas College
  • Pankaj Jha, LSR College
  • Brinda Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Naveen Gaur, Dyal Singh College, Delhi University
  • Ruplekha Khullar, JDMC, University of Delhi
  • Rudrashish Chakraborty, Dept of English, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi
  • Vikram Vyas, Physics Department, St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University
  • Bikram Phookun, Department of Physics, St Stephen’s College, Delhi
  • Sania Iqbal Hashmi, MPhil Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Mitul Baruah, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
  • Shahana Bhattacharya, Kirori Mal College, Delhi University
  • Amrapali Basumatary, Kirori Mal College, Delhi University
  • Banajit Hussain, New Socialist Initiative
  • Hari Sen, Associate Professor in History, Ramjas College, University of Delhi
  • Harsh Kapoor, Independent researcher, Delhi
  • Nandita Narain, St. Stephen’s College
  • Shubhra Nagalia, Gender Studies, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi
  • Uma Chakravarti, Historian
  • Preeti Sampat, Dept of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University
  • Ayesha Kidwai, Centre for Linguistics, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Lata Singh, Centre for Women’s Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Shubhadeep Chowdhury, M.A. History, Ambedkar University, Delhi
  • Pulin Nayak
  • Sucheta Mahajan, CHS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  • Sanjay Kumar Bohidar, SRCC, University of Delhi
  • Abhijit Visaria, 
Asia Research Institute
National University of Singapore
  • Anita Cherian, 
Dept of English
, Indraprastha College for Women
  • Dhananjay Kapse, 
Dept of English, 
Kirori Mal College
  • Amrita Ibrahim, PhD, Georgetown University
  • Malay Firoz, Graduate student, Brown University
  • Saloni Sharma, Dept of English, Kirori Mal College
  • Adil Mohommad, Economist, Asia Pacific Department, IMF
  • Pragya Gupta, Dept of English, Gargi College
  • Amitesh Grover, Assistant Professor, National School of Drama; Course Leader, Arts & Design Dept, Shiv Nadar University
  • Maya Krishna Rao, Theatre for Education & Social Transformation, Dept. of Education, Shiv Nadar University
  • Geeti Das, Politics, New School for Social Research
  • Amrita Pande, Dept of Sociology, University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Aditya Nigam, CSDS, Delhi

3 thoughts on “In Solidarity with the Students of the Film &Television Institute of India (FTII)

  1. This is a Fascist tendency unleashed by the state. I personally condemn this kind of act. Our institutions must not treat rules and regulations as their weapon against any sort of dissent. This is what we must unitedly oppose wherever we are, whoever we are.

  2. Hartman de Souza

    As one of the early visitors to FTII when the strike had just started, I would like to say that I found the students I met, sharp, incisive and eloquent, everything in fact, you would expect young film students to be.

    It is very heartening therefore to see the long list of signatories to this strong statement of support to the students.

    I am not in favour of the PM addressing the students (and possibly parents) at FTII. I don’t believe leopards can get rid of their spots.

    What I would really like to see now is the many distinguished alumni of FTII converging on their old campus in a huge number, on a duly appointed day (sooner rather than later) and holding a symposium on what they see FTII being in the next ten years..

    Present those findings to the public and see how the I&B Ministry will turn tail and run.

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