Kerala: Film Institute Students Demand Director's Sacking, Strike Enters 16th Day
Students during the strike holding protest inside the campus.
The strike of the students of the KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts (KRNNIVSA) entered its 16th day on December 20. The resignation of the director Shankar Mohan on allegations of caste discrimination and jeopardising the reservation in the admission process is the demand of the striking students.
The protesting students highlight the plight of several affected students, forcing them to quit their courses or seek admission to other film institutes. One student has taken a legal struggle since being barred from completing his project work for leading a protest seeking e-grants just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.
The striking students have deposed before the high-level enquiry committee set up by the state government on the alleged discriminatory practices of the institute's director. The students have also criticised renowned filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, the institute's Chairman, for extending support to the director.
The students have resolved to continue their strike until the resignation or the removal of the director of the institute.
NON-COMPLIANCE WITH RESERVATION NORMS
Only the third film institute in India, named after the former president of India, KR Narayanan, came into existence in 2014 in his native district of Kottayam. The institute was founded by the government of Kerala to provide exposure to global concepts and deeper knowledge of technological advancements worldwide.
Though several protests have taken place since 2019, the indefinite strike on December 5 was sparked after students identified the non-compliance of reservations in the admission process.
Jithin Narayanan, a student representative from the 2019 batch of the screenplay and direction course, accused the director of violating the reservation process in admissions.
"Only six students were admitted to the course, and seats under reserved category were left vacant despite receiving applications. This is a gross violation of the reservation process," he told NewsClick.
Film personalities including director Kamal joined the students' protest at the IFFK venue.
A student had approached the Kerala High Court after being denied admission and won an interim order in his favour. "But he got admission to the Satyajit Ray Institute at Kolkata and joined there. If the reservation policy is followed, he would have got admission here," Jithin Narayanan said.
DISCRIMINATION OF WORKERS AND STUDENTS
The initial round of protests began at the end of 2019, following the non-availability of e-grants for the students. The students demanded grants to complete the project but were isolated and punished as the country went into a lockdown following the pandemic.
"Anandapadmanabhan, a student, has been fighting since he was punished for protesting and demanding rights. He has taken the legal course to finish his course. Still, he is unable to do so due to the intervention of the director," another student council member from the department of cinematography said.
The institute is accused of not ensuring grants to the students despite being founded in 2014. "One student, Bipin, withdrew from the course due to a lack of grants. Students are struggling to complete their projects due to such issues," Jithin Narayanan said.
Another demand raised by the students is the bond demanded by the institute during the admission process.
"Clauses such as seeking permission for going out of the institute, returning on time and maintaining attendance of 80% are being imposed by the director. Such practices of imposing restrictions, besides UGC regulations, must be ended," a student council member said.
The students also allege that the director uses the conservancy workers for his household work and is practising untouchability.
"One of the five women workers was denied entry into his house since she belonged to the dalit community. The others are being forced to work without wages," Jithin Narayanan said.
'UNDERMINING VALUE OF COURSES'
The student council has raised concerns over the reduction in the duration of the courses in the name of academic reforms.
"The three-year courses are reduced to two years now. This leads to a reduction in projects for students, which destroys the very purpose of the course," Jithin Narayanan said.
The students even held a protest at the venue of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) in Thiruvananthapuram against the director and Gopalakrishnan for supporting the actions of the director.
The department of higher education had constituted a high-level enquiry committee on the students' allegations.
"We have appeared before the committee and submitted the proofs of the allegations and plights of the students. We hope for an amicable solution soon," Jithin Narayanan said.
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