After writers, artists and scientists it is the turn of filmmakers. A group of them announced on Wednesday that they will return their National Awards to the government in support of the striking students at the Film and Television Institute of India and also in protest against the rise in intolerance. The students meanwhile withdrew their strike on Wednesday though they said they would continue their protest.The group of filmmakers includes directors Dibakar Bannerjee (Khosla ka Ghosla) and Harshwardhan Kulkarni (Hunterr), documentary filmmakers Anand Patwardhan (Jai Bhim Comrade), Rakesh Sharma (Final Solution) and Nishtha Jain (Gulaabi Gang), editor Kirti Nakhwa (Hunterr) and more. While some spoke to the press today, “others will soon announce their support,” one of them said.
“We have been thinking about this for some time. The government is not addressing the FTII strikers issues. But also, the growing violence and saffronisation is worrying and the ruling establishment has been silent in the face of all these killings and lynching,” Anand Patwardhan told The Wire. Patwardhan said he would return the gold medals and certificates he has got for many of his films, such as Bombay Our City and Ram ke Naam.
At a press conference, filmmakers gave their reasons for taking this “wrenching step.” Bannerjee talked about growing intolerance, pointing out that this did not mean only violence but also the lack of proper debate. The FTII students were asking for a better teaching environment and their entire agitation was without peaceful: “no buses were burnt, they were ready to talk,” he said. Patwardhan, whose films have touched on human rights issues, said, “I am more afraid now than I was during the Emergency. Those days you could get jailed. Now extreme right wing groups are roaming around with guns and killing rationalists.”
In a letter to the President and the Prime Minister, the filmmakers referred to the murders of rationalists and writers like Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M.Kalburgi. “These are clearly not random acts of violence. People are being murdered for their beliefs and opinions. There seems to be no attempt to unravel the larger picture and bring to book extremist groups that believe in ruthless violence to eliminate those who hold a counter view from theirs. There has been no official condemnation of these groups and we question this silence.”
“The lynching and murder of an ironsmith, Mohammed Akhlaq, in a village at the edge of our national capital has shattered our faith in the spirit of tolerance that is the core of our robust democracy. The mob that stood at this poor muslim man’s house had been empowered by the belief that this was an acceptable way to express rage. The current climate has validated this sentiment. Those who stand outside the circle drawn by the ruling elite are vulnerable in the most appalling manner. It has now come to light that members of the party that rule at the Centre led the mob. It is imperative that we take note of the impunity with which the mob was instigated. No condemnation is complete without naming the politically powerful who scripted this attack.”
“It is not just artists and writers and filmmakers who are angry at what is going on; even the common people are disgusted and afraid at the sheer impunity of those who indulge in communal violence,” Patwardhan said.The names of the signatories are:
Lipika Singh Darai