Students’ voice stifled at IFFI: Filmmakers to Jaitley, Rathore

Panaji, Nov 27 (IANS) As many as 87 filmmakers, many of whom are participating in the 46th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), have jointly written to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley condemning the behaviour of the festival organisers towards protesting FTII students and stifling student expression.

The letter, which was circulated to the media here by filmmakers like Anant Patwardhan, Anjali Monteiro, Sridhar Rangayan, Madhusree Dutta, among many others also links the crackdown on Film and Television Institute of India students to the 139-day stand-off between them and the central government over the appointment of the institute’s chairman Gajendra Chauhan.

“We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the harsh measures that are being taken to stifle the participation of the student community at IFFI and demand that the students from the FTII be allowed to participate in the festival, as it is their democratic right to do so,” said the letter, which also demands dropping of criminal charges against two ex-FTII students who were arrested for shouting slogans and holding placards at the IFFI inaugural function.

FTII students had staged a 139-day strike from June 12 this year, in protest against the appointment of Chauhan, 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 called off the strike on October 29, but also insisted that their protests would continue at events like IFFI.

A spokesperson for the FTII students said that over two dozen students were denied registration for IFFI, two ex-students were arrested for protesting at the inaugural ceremony and one student was detained for several hours by the police for wearing a T-shirt with the FTII logo on the festival campus.

The letter, which is also addressed to Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Sunil Arora and Director of the Film Festival C. Senthil Rajan, calls this stifling of the student voice.

“From ex-students being arrested for exercising their democratic right to protest and false charges being framed against them, to being denied entry into the festival despite valid accreditation simply because they happen to be from FTII, to a student being put in preventive detention – these are measures that have nothing to do with the objectives that IFFI was set up for,” the letter states, expressing solidarity with the FTII students.

The filmmakers have also criticised the dropping of the student film package at the international event this year.

“The scrapping of the student package affects film students across the country and not just FTII, and is an act that is against the interests of the entire student community,” the letter said.

The organisers of IFFI however have rejected the allegations made by the FTII students and thier sympathisers.

According to IFFI director C. Senthil Rajan the festival is a place to celebrate cinema and not a playground for politics.

“They (police) have not stopped any delegate or any film student who just came here to watch movies. Our objective is to showcase films. This is not a political arena or a protest arena for people to come in to protest. It is an arena for showcasing films. We have been very clear in that and we have not stopped anybody who wante

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