After several writers and award winning authors of multi-lingual literature returned their Sahitya Akademi awards and honours, 10 film-makers too followed their step on Wednesday. National Award-winning film-makers Anand Patwardhan and Dibakar Banerjee were also among those who returned their awards. The move by film-makers came hours after the students of FTII Pune had called off their strike against the appointment of actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as the premier institute’s Chairman.
Gajendra Chauhan is best known for his role of Yudhishthir in television serial Mahabharata.
Expressing they were “disenchanted” over certain recent incidents in the country reflecting “rising intolerance” and shrinking space for dissent, the film-makers said that their move to give up awards was also in support of the FTII students demanding Chauhan’s removal.
“We are disenchanted with what is happening in our country,” said national award winning veteran film-maker Anand Patwardhan in a press conference held in Mumbai.
Earlier in the day, the agitating students of the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) who have been on protest since June 12, unilaterally called off their 139-day-old strike but declared that the protest against Chairman Gajendra Chauhan will go on.
“We are calling off the strike as a collective decision in the best interests of the students and returning to academics with immediate effect. But our protest will continue. We will take the battle forward,” FTII Students Association representative Vikas Urs said adding they will continue to protest in a “peaceful and democratic manner”.
At the same time, the agitating students ruled out any “proactive engagement” with the Information and Broadcasting Ministry until the issue of appointment of Gajendra Chauhan and four other FTII society members gets resolved.
Another FSA representative Yashaswi said, “The government was stifling voice of dissent and adopting repressive measures. There is a clear attempt to impose one ideology”.
However, the Union government welcomed the move by agitating students to call off their strike.
“I am glad that they are returning back to their classes. The discussions on how to improve this institute will continue,” MoS Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said.
In the centre of storm, FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan too said he was “happy” about the students deciding to end the strike and that he was ready to work with them.
“We all will work together and move together…. Discussion is the only way forward. I will wait for directions from I&B ministry (on what to do next),” Mr. Chauhan said in Pune.
The FTII strike had received national attention with leading personalities of Indian cinema, many of them alumni of the premier institute, pledging their unstinted support to the stir. Even Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi too had lent his support to the agitating students.
On October 20, the agitating students and MoS Rajyavardhan Rathore had held talks in Delhi but failed to break the deadlock.
(With inputs from the PTI)