Rahul Gandhi at FTII: Of Democracy and Negotiations

A student of FTII sums up her thoughts on Rahul Gandhi’s visit and the ongoing agitation at the campus

Updated01 Aug 2015, 06:02 AM IST
India
4 min read

The beauty of a democracy lies in the idea of power resting among the people who are governed and not in the governors. However, when one considers 60 years of dark ground realities, the inherent complexities of a working democracy in a country as multi-textured as India, and chronically corrupt Governments, the extent of people’s power in a democracy then begins to range from an exalted idea to almost a myth. How does one then claim back this power?

Protests outside the Film and Television Institute of India (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)
Protests outside the Film and Television Institute of India (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)

Dissent is one such powerful tool to ask for accountability. A thriving democracy, like Mihir Sharma puts it here, depends on the dissenting power of the people not in their silence. It is the ultimate symbol of engagement.

Fifty days after going on a strike, and having been met with an impasse with the I & B Ministry, the students of FTII today received Rahul Gandhi, Leader of Opposition at campus, in solidarity with the issue it faces.

Rahul Gandhi making a point while speaking to FTII students (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)
Rahul Gandhi making a point while speaking to FTII students (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)

Mr Gandhi’s visit to the campus, a few days before the scheduled protests in Delhi (3rd Aug,) is an outcome of negotiating a democracy that is increasingly becoming unwieldy and suspicious that has left little space for negotiating in a democracy.

Mr Gandhi interacted with the striking students to understand the fears, doubts and apprehensions and its importance in the lives of students studying to be artists. He was accompanied by Chiranjeevi, Khushboo, Raj Babbar and Ramya, influential members of the film fraternity and the Congress party who addressed the students as well, extending their support to the fight for freedom of expression.

Despite its representation as ‘people’, in the hierarchy of political drama, FTII students, like R K Laxman’s ‘common man’, figure nowhere. After 50 days of impasse, questions of political hijacking are moot but the idea of democracy remains alive. And with it, a hope for an audience and a better future.

Actors Chiranjeevi and Khusbhoo accompanied Rahul Gandhi to meet the students at FTII (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)
Actors Chiranjeevi and Khusbhoo accompanied Rahul Gandhi to meet the students at FTII (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)

The situation at FTII not being a singular case brings into light the threat to democracy we as a nation are experiencing. Mr Gandhi enunciated that the issue of merit is one but there is a separate issue of the disagreement of an entire group of people with the Government’s choice and that must be taken into consideration.

Citing Mother India, he also emphasised on the validity of cinema as a symbol of national identification and importance of its existence in a completely free state and space, devoid of hegemonies of ideologies. He also stressed on the need for education to be free of political agendas and to have a larger economic accessibility.

Rahul Gandhi in a packed auditorium at FTII (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)
Rahul Gandhi in a packed auditorium at FTII (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)

Democracy, like any other relationship is political and hence a two-way street. While malicious to absurd allegations have been thrown at strikers, peaceful and lawful protests have continued. This is what one would term as a one-way conversation. It’s this that tips political power to unhealthy proportions. This strike is and has always been a question to the Government about whether it really cares?

Irrespective of its outcome, it is empowering the exact thing the Government wishes to squash – the ability of independent thinking and courage of questioning. The issue did not begin with these appointments and do not end with this strike.

Rahul Gandhi listens to a student on his visit to the FTII campus (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)
Rahul Gandhi listens to a student on his visit to the FTII campus (Photo courtesy: Fatema Kagalwala)

Dissent in democracy is a very powerful way of negotiating and that as Mr Gandhi iterated, must continue in our films and life-long work. We must continue raising questions without fear. As the dates of the Delhi protests come closer, FTII continues to wait for a valid answer to a question that is now no longer limited to this institution alone, but is a pan-India question. Will educational institutions continue to suffer political agendas to their ultimate destruction?

( Fatema Kagalwala is a 2nd yr Film Editing student at FTII)

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Published: 31 Jul 2015, 02:30 PM IST
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