K G Suresh
FTII chairman Gajendra Chauhan, who was acclaimed for his role in Mahabharata as Dharamraj Yudhishtir, is today the favourite whipping boy of the so-called “intellectuals” across the country. From Bollywood stars of questionable calibre to students in institutions remotely connected to the film industry, it has become fashionable to tweet or issue statements against the besieged chairman who has been facing protests from the moment his name was announced.
In Mr Chauhan’s appointment, the NDA government has not violated any rules or conventions whatsoever. Ever since the establishment of the prestigious institution which has contributed several stalwarts to the industry, the appointment of the chairman has been the sole discretion of the information and broadcasting ministry.
To begin with, since when have students started to decide who will head their institution? Are they bestowed with more wisdom than a popularly elected government? How is it that terms such as “academic democracy” are being coined and circulated by sections who were silent all through the UPA era when people of questionable credibility and integrity were being appointed not only to academic institutions but also the high constitutional offices of the land? But today, those who defended the appointment of Rabri Devi as Bihar chief minister as empowerment of women and backward communities are crying foul over rooftops questioning the educational qualifications of the Union HRD minister whose articulation and enthusiasm is conceded silently even by bitter opponents.
Unfortunately, the entire debate is neither about Mr Chauhan’s abilities nor academic democracy. Chauhan is only a scapegoat in a larger game plan to discredit and defame all NDA appointees as RSS agents with mediocre abilities, thereby seeking to establish that only Left wing intellectuals have the capability to build and lead institutions.
It is a desperate attempt by frustrated and insecure intellectuals who fear that the golden days of their dominance over national institutions are over. The government’s move is neither about saffronisation nor about undermining institutions. It is about removing the scourge of political untouchability, discrimination and apartheid that successive governments/universities have pursued since the dawn of independence.
Many academics were denied their due for the only crime that they believed in a certain ideology or subscribed to a certain school of thought. Their ideology became the albatross around their neck. Nobody talked about their freedom of thought and expression, their academic freedom. They were at the receiving end in academic appointments and promotions. The nation’s academia was dominated by a mafia which determined their fate and like Bhagya Vidhata pushed into the netherworld the lesser mortals of the right wing variety with contempt and ruthlessness. The government of the day is only ending that injustice.
The conspiracy is crystal clear. This Mafiosi is not just attacking Mr Chauhan. He has become a pretext to condemn each and every appointment of the government — from the ICHR Chief to the censor board chief and the chairman of the National Book Trust. The target is neither Mr Chauhan nor the information and broadcasting ministry but the Prime Minister himself and the RSS.
If indeed the critics and the students of the FTII have a genuine reason for protest, they should listen to the counsel of eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal, who name is often being invoked by them.
“They should talk to Mr Chauhan. If they fear he is not competent, it’s best that they talk to him and quiz him. It’s important”, he says.
Mr Chauhan himself has offered to talk to the students and asked for an opportunity to prove himself. Can there be anything more democratic? It cannot be my way or the highway.
(The author is Adjunct Professor, Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication)