An open letter to Swarajya readers from a student of FTII on how a handful of FTII students have completely hijacked the strike to suit their pre-determined agenda.

Dear Swarajya Readers

I am a student of FTII. It is with a deep sense of pain and anguish that I am writing this letter.

I requested Swarajya to keep my identity under wraps. I gave it a lot of thought but given that the protesting mob of students brook no dissent, I feared that I will be ostracized from the campus. I was certain that I would be subject to an organised boycott. Yes the same self-styled guardians of free speech, who are in the vanguard of the FTII protest, are the ones who will never tolerate any contrarian position.

It pains me how a handful of FTII students and a section of the media have completely hijacked the strike to suit their pre-determined agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth than projecting the FTII strike as a fight between a bunch of idealistic students and authoritarian government foisting its own cronyism on an allegedly independent institution. FTII had plumbed the depths of depravity long before Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment.

Those inhabiting the FTII campus sing paeans to Ghatak and Eisenstein’s principles and ideologies but a narrow clique of students (who have portrayed themselves as cerebral thinkers and fashioned themselves as intellectual inheritors of the institute’s bygone glory) have monopolized the FTII viewpoint while the voice of the silent majority has been completely stifled. Their ubiquity in television sets, social media and newspaper columns as FTII student representatives creates an impression that they reflect the voice of vast majority of students but it’s highly likely that the section of the media is actively promoting them because they are spouting soundbites which seem more like political polemic and ideological propaganda against the current government.

It is unfortunate that the real issue, which is the deep rooted structural rot within FTII, has been relegated to the background and the debate has been reduced to a slug-fest over the credentials and suitability of Chauhan. This is the stratagem deployed by the protesting students and their outside ideological mentors – steering the debate away from institutional decay of FTII, for many of which students themselves are responsible, and focus on the less important issue of Chauhan’s appointment.

Student body or Hooligans?

Most recent manifestation of student hooliganism at FTII was an abusive protest staged outside the residence of Chief Registrar U.C. Bodke (Registrar’s residence is located within the campus).

An inebriated student was heard unleashing a volley of vulgar abuse even as the Registrar was resting inside his house with his wife and his young daughter. As the student continued his relentless diatribe, Bodke came down and questioned him. This issue was played up by the student body and they forced Bodke to publically apologize to the student with folded hands. Yes a man was forced to apologise for confronting a drunken lumpen who was creating nuisance outside his house during the wee hours of the morning.

This is just one instance of the despicable hooliganism displayed by student body that is now desperately trying to play the victim card in Chauhan’s case.

Drugs, Booze and Student Leaders:

FTII has a hallowed spot called the Wisdom Tree. This is an old mango tree in front of director’s office. Apocryphal stories are abound on how Ritwik Ghatak bestowed real and reel life lessons to his students under this tree over free flowing booze.

As the night falls, this mythical place morphs into a den of drinking and marijuana smoking. Frankly many of us don’t have any problem with students indulging in bacchanalian merrymaking or hitting a high after smoking potent stuff, as long as it is within the confines of campus and does not cause disturbance to others. But I do personally feel that this unfettered freedom has been taken for granted and unsuspecting students are initiated into these habits under the garb of “the culture or legacy” of the FTII.

Many students consume drugs openly without any form of restrictions as it allegedly gets their creative juices flowing. Nothing like a coke stimulated creativity for bringing a new perspective to humanity. Rampant drug use has caused a lot of problem in recent years. Many FTII students in recent years have sought psychiatric intervention for drug induced depression. I personally know students in FTII who experienced serious mental problems due to massive substance abuse.

One student leader, who is the forefront of protest, hurls shockingly disgusting abuses on Smriti Irani and Narendra Modi (we refuse to reproduce it because of its vile and vulgar nature) after his daily dose of charas and alcohol. He is in fact a sad victim of drug abuse which possibly leads him to indulge in such a verbal tirade. Even with such acute mental disorder, he is allowed to stroll freely in the campus which may cause problems to students, especially female students.

The entire strike has been sustained by the course of the action that gets decided during the nightly GBM (General Body Meeting). I simply stopped attending GBMs after the first few times because there were too many protesting students smelling of marijuana and alcohol. People who address most of the GBM under the ‘wisdom tree’ can be found strolling in the campus with a bottle of alcohol in one hand and usually in a totally drugged condition.

In such a scenario many girl students feel scared. In fact there have been lots of debates about the skewed gender ratio in the campus also.

Make no mistake about it. This strike is political:

Many people, who are representing themselves as the face of FTII, are legally not even the students of FTII.

Most of them belong to the 2008 batch which means it’s been 7 years have passed since they entered the campus. Yes 7 YEARS. The officially stipulated period of the course is 3 years but they are living here since 7 years utilizing all the fancy facilities available in the FTII hostels – cheap food, free Wi-Fi, cheap accommodation, free electricity (one can use induction stoves, heaters etc non-stop).

Many newly enrolled students find it difficult to secure accommodation as hostel rooms are illegally occupied by these overstaying campus radicals. Remember all these facilities come at an enormous cost funded by Indian taxpayers.

Dear Readers – Do you really want your hard earned money squandered in subsidising the lifestyle and merrymaking of these otherwise unproductive squatters?

One such person, who is staying here for eternity, comes from a far left ideological persuasion. The police is keeping a close surveillance on him because of his alleged links with Maoist groups. This person deserves to be ousted from the campus for overstaying for 7 years. But instead he has emerged as the face of the protest and is fomenting fault lines within the campus. He has been in the forefront of questioning the credentials of every governing council member and chairman. Isn’t this a farce?

Few myths about FTII Strike:

A section of the media is propagating a myth that the continuing strike will cause huge disruption to the academic schedule of the students. This is totally false. I wish to clarify that FTII is not an academic institute like say the IIMs/IITs. In FTII the courses are so unstructured and unplanned (3 years course tend to finish in 6 years, and this is happening for years before Chauhan’s entry). This leaves the students with loads of free time to indulge in innumerable protests. As the say “An Idle Mind is a Devil’s workshop”- what the bulk of protesting students do is smoke and drink under the precincts of the wisdom tree and fritter away their time while motivated media reportage creates an impression that the students are worried about the dismal state of affairs in FTII.

The only qualitative difference since May 2014 is the interminable sessions of drunken revelry under the wisdom tree and it is now mostly about abusing Modi, the BJP and Smriti Irani. Such is the appalling level of ignorance among the protesting FTII students that many think that the institution rolls up to HRD ministry and not the IB ministry! Perhaps the power of drug induced imagination and creativity?

A sense of fear is clearly palpable among the protesting students. Many are scared that under Chauhan or any other new Chairman, the debilitating debauchery of the students, which in a large measure contributed to the dismal state of the institution, will come in to focus. These permanent protestors are not exactly fighting for safeguarding institutional legacy but to ensure that they are not deprived access to luxuries inside this campus. They are indulging in fear-mongering as they perceive that the BJP government, with a clear right-wing agenda and nationalist policy, will try to combat the institutional debasement.

Irony of waging a strike against government using government funds:

The whole strike is supposedly against the government but students have no qualms in using the government provided facilities to accomplish that. There is 24*7 electricity in the campus even as power cuts are common feature in the rest of Pune. To post updates of their radical activities, they use institute provided lightning fast internet (around 100MBPS speed). In fact there are hostel occupants who are not only old students and who refuse to vacate their accommodation but there also many people who don’t belong to the campus.

With such a luxurious life funded by taxpayers, it does not take much to wage these endless strikes. One wonders how many of them will be there to face hardships if the government takes back these facilities. My guess: not many.

Your’s Sincerely,

K

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