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Saffron Sees Red

R.Nithya |

In a blatant display of intolerance, activists of Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) beat up five students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) outside the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) at Pune on August 21.

The NFAI was the venue to a program that included the screening of Anand Patwardhan's film “Jai Bhim Comarade” -- a film on the atrocities on Dalits, followed by a performance by the cultural group Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) whose members were charged of having naxalite links.

The program, which was finalized some weeks ago, was requested to be cancelled due to a bandh to pay tribute to the Maharastrian anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar who was shot dead by two assailants on August 20. The organizers, FTII and Yugapath (a Pune-based youth forum), nonetheless, decided to go ahead with the program as a homage to Dabholkar.

The ABVP activists entered the place around 5 pm when the screening of the film was over. They hung around during the discussion on the film, and a performance by the Kabir Kala Manch. “When everyone left, including the media people, they (ABVP activists) approached KKM, calling them a naxalite body. Then, they called us anti-nationals because we sang anti-caste songs,” said Kislay Tiwari, one of the students injured in the attack.

Image Courtesy: Manoj Bidkar (

The ABVP activists hit another student Sriram Raja with a helmet. Raja received injuries on his head and had to undergo three stitches. The activists shouted slogans of “Jai Narendra Modi” and “Jai Shri Ram” while beating the students.  

The injured students are third-year Editing students Kislay Tiwari and Sriram Raja; third-year Sound student Ajayan Adat; third-year Cinematography student Ansar Shah, and a second-year Cinematography student Shameen.

This incident is another one in a series of such incidents that have trampled the democratic values in the country over the years. Last week, VHP activists tore paintings on display of 11 Pakistani artists in Amdavad-ni-Gufa art gallery in Ahmedabad. In an incident in February this year, some Hindutva goons attacked a Dalit college professor for his critique of caste oppression during one of his lectures. Last year in Mumbai, two girls were arrested for their Facebook comments on the ensuing chaos in the city after the death of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray.

Hindutva fascism translating into censorship of the street once again reveals the growing level of intolerance in this country. In order to gain national support to their actions, the Hindutva goons have always accused their victims of being anti-national.  

A media release by the FTII Student Association states, “Students Association of FTII is not affiliated with any political party. We are artists and filmmakers who believe in freedom of self expression through the medium of films, music and theatre. Attacking anyone who is expressing their thoughts through these media is highly condemnable. We are increasingly witnessing that any individual or organization that takes an opinion that is contrary to the mainstream, is labeled as anti-national and all efforts are taken to intimidate them which can also amount to murder, especially looking at the recent case of Dr. Narendra Dabholkar. What is more harrowing is the complete numbness of the state regarding these atrocities, where police personnel despite being present at the situations did not take any action.”

The FTII Student Association has called for a protest rally on August 25 to condemn the attack. The protest will include FTII students and several cultural groups against intimidation by the right-wing fascist groups. “The police have not granted us the permission to carry on the rally. They should make sure that the environment is secure for people to dissent,” said Prateek Vats, a former FTII student.

The rally will begin at 4 pm from FTII to the Omkareshwar Bridge near which Dabholkar was shot dead. “As a democracy, this is a difficult time for us. These attacks are being normalized. If we don’t protest against small incidents like these, then a larger incident like that of Dabholkar’s death will happen,” said Kislay. The students have decided to rally irrespective of police permission.

To show solidarity with the students at FTII, the National School of Drama at Delhi will organize a protest on Monday at 4 pm where students and artists will get together to condemn the violent attack by fascist forces. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick. 

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