Panaji, Nov 23 (IANS) Snubbed by Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, the FTII students’ protest at the 46th edition of the International Film Festival of India got a political crutch with three independent opposition legislators backing them, even as sympathisers of the protesting students announced a two-day alternative film festival.
The alternative film festival will exclusively showcase films made by students and other directors who have returned their awards.
The FTII versus IFFI organiser controversy blew up after two ex-students of the Pune-based institute were arrested for shouting slogans and holding up placards at the IFFI inaugural function on November 20.
Students of the institute have alleged continued profiling and harassment at the hands of the state police as well as officials of the Union Information and Broadcasting ministry which organises the festival.
“Along with the student works, the two-day festival will also screen films made by some ex –students who returned their national award recently in solidarity with the brave and spirited struggle of FTII students against the dubious appointments made at the FTII society by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” ex-FTII student Prateek Vats told IANS.
The festival will be held a short distance away from the IFFI campus in Panaji, Vats said, adding that festival was also a response from the students community to a decision of the IFFI organisers to scrap the student film section at IFFI.
FTII students had staged a 139-day strike from June 12 this year, in protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute’s chairman, claiming the artiste was unfit for the position.
After the appointing authority union ministry for information and broadcasting, stuck to its guns and did not cancel Chauhan’s appointment, the students pulled off the strike on October 29, but also insisted that their protests would continue, also saying that IFFI, the country’s largest international film festival and one which is organised by the central government, would be a venue for their protest.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an IFFI event in Panaji, award-winning filmmaker Shyam Benegal said the protesting students should be engaged in discussion by the authorities, but also added that political ideology plays no role in the functioning of FTII.
“The fact is students are students. They have may have unhappinesses. They are not criminals. They are not crooks. They are a not anti-national. They are just students. They may be unhappy. They may think that things are not quite correct, but the fact is that for those in charge to deal with them in a way which makes sense. My own opinion is that you have to meet the students and talk to them,” Benegal said.
While also questioning the vehemence of the student’s elongated agitation, Benegal also questioned the accusation that political ideology plays a role in running the functioning of the Institute.
“It’s a very simple thing. If this was done, there was no need for students to have a strike for 139 days. Five months of work they have lost. This is terrible,” Benegal added.
Condemning the strike Goa Chief Minister Parsekar said FTII students had no right to strike in Goa and that by doing so, they were taking on the might of the state administration.
“This not a matter related to my state. If something wrong or objectionable happens in IFFI, it reflects directly on the functioning of the government. Therefore, they should not be doing this year. Why take on confrontation with the state government without reason?” Parsekar said on Monday, when asked to respond to allegations made by Film and Television Institute of India students that, they were being screened and harassed by the police.
“I do not ready believe that protesting is a matter of their right. We are organising it (IFFI). They could meet the concerned individually,” Parsekar said.
In response a group of three independent legislators Vijai Sardesai, Naresh Sawal and Rohan Khaunte, who have backed the alternative festival organised by FTII symapthisers have accused Parsekar of unleashing an Emergency of sorts in Goa.
“Who is Parsekar to say students have no right to protest. If the police tries to stop the screenings at the FTII film festival, we will stand outside with our own people to ensure that the police do not touch them,” Sardesai said, addressing a press conference with FTII sympathisers.