Rukmini Sen

Will FTII become Government’s Achilles Heel?

“In a midnight swoop, Pune Police arrested half a dozen students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) for allegedly confining institute Director Prashant Pathrabe to his office on Monday and for allegedly manhandling and threatening him. Police have booked about 50 students of the institute charging them with seven different offences including a non-bailable offence. Pathrabe (47) registered the complaint on Tuesday night” – Indian Express


On the 67th day of their protest, the students of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), were beaten up by the police. As parents should we condone the state’s brutal action against this student community? In fact, I believe the FTII situation may end up becoming this government’s achilles heel.

When the students of FTII started their protest against the appointment of actor Gajendra Singh as the Chairman of their Institute, very few believed their protest would last very long. Some thought that the government would move quickly to make amends. However, there has been no reconciliation between these two opposing groups.

Apparently, the students of FTII don’t want to settle for mediocrity just because the government can’t seem to find anyone worthwhile for the post of Chairman. In fact, it is one of the strongest student protests seen in the recent times. These students have refused to be treated like many government- run schools where the Government either imposes its agenda autocratically or seems like a disinterested bystander.

Remember, these are not just any film students. Their parents didn’t send them to some fancy foreign or local private film institute to do a quick and expensive course in film making. These are not the students who pay hefty fees. They have worked hard to enroll in FTII and endured a long selection process. They knew that in a government-run institute they would have to engage actively with the Government during their education. In fact, that is what they are doing with their protest. They are engaging with THEIR government.

And Prime Minister Modi what are your administrators and ministers doing? Sending police! Leveling false charges of drug use against student leaders? Really!

The students of FTII have shown they can conduct a non-violent, mature, creative and peaceful protest. They have used their Film making tools such as cameras, edit machines and social media in their protest. They have met with other student groups to spread their message that they must be respected as the students of a premium institute with strong legacy of good education.

The government at center has also made its stand very clear. In its stubbornness it has actually lost the faith of many a young people who were largely Modi’s vote bank last year. Doesn’t this government get it that shaking hands with those bright artistes, future directors was a much bigger investment than being rigid about a posting? Has the government forgotten that they won the elections last year on the slogan of development, democracy and inclusion?

b2ap3_thumbnail_ftii1Why will any government be autocratic with the student community ? Who commits that mistake these days? You are creating memories of oppression in FTII students, their friends and Film makers of this country. Just like you had with IIT students, their teachers and their families. I am sure no Government wants to create memories of oppression. For the sake of your own people, your nation’s people get out of this dharna mode, this Sangh mode! You are dealing with the story tellers of this country. They will spin 1000 stories around your oppression and create memories! Do you want that? I thought you wanted more than 5 years of governance!

What the government could have done is send one of his best negotiators to engage with the students and listen to them . They could have calmly asked the students about their choice for Chairman, mentioned some of the names the Government has on its mind and reached a decision together and addressed a joint Press Conference with the students. Held their hands, raised their hands, empowered them as a mature government should!

The students would have felt happy that they were heard and made part of the decision-making process. The government would have been hailed as a youth friendly, culture friendly, Film Friendly, progressive Government.

Dealing with FTII students with proverbial iron hand has been this Government’s biggest mistake. You are not handling an enemy army. You are dealing with your own children! Your nation’s future!

This is what the students said on their Facebook page calmly after the police manhandled them:

We didn’t instigate any violence , we didn’t call for the situation of a gherao, we haven’t done anything that fundamentally identifies itself as anti constitution.
We raised questions.
As our teachers have taught us to.

We also raised concerns. Like our parents have always asked us to.

When you call in cops, manhandle your students, don’t listen to their agony, show apathy and ignorance, you show where the nation and the terror of Governance is slowly heading to.You don’t want us to question, you will not grant anybody to have a right to dissent, you can’t tolerate the youth blooming and becoming individuals with concerns about the state of affairs.

Dear Prime Minister,  I add my small voice to the sane voice of FTII students. This is the youth of the country Mr Modi. You are the Prime Minister of this nation. Listen! Please listen to their Mann Ki Baat!

The article first appeared HERE

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