Pune Civil Society organisations protest attacks on FTII & Lalit Kala Kendra
The activists, professionals and students condemned the attack on students and called for solidarity.
Pune: “Everyone at the university is scared, this (the attack) is all we talk about,” says Siddhant Jambhulkar, a student of Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU). He was speaking about the assault and the subsequent arrest that the students of Lalit Kala Kendra at the SPPU faced a couple of days ago, after a play performance that was deemed ‘objectionable’ by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a right-wing students organisation.
Several progressive organisations in Pune came together on Monday in support of the students of SPPU as well as the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), who were were both assaulted by right-wing groups and then faced arrest by the Pune police. The activists, professionals and students condemned the attack on students and called for solidarity in order to fight for the freedom of expression. The representatives of several organisations like Nava Samajwadi Paryay, Naujavan Bharat Sabha, NAPM, Stree Mukti League, Disha, Lokshahi Utsav Samiti, Revolutionary Workers Party of India (RWPI), Jawab Do and more were present at the Pune District Collector Office, where the protest was being held. The number of students themselves was relatively low.
“They [ABVP] have made sure to spread a feeling of intimidation and fear among the students at the university. They held a march yesterday as well. The Lalit Kala Kendra students have faced action, while we have not heard of any action against ABVP at all. The fear is echoing among the students of all departments,” Siddhant adds.
On Friday, a group of students, who are part of ABVP, attacked the students of Lalit Kala Kendra, who were performing a play titles ‘Jab We Met’, as part of their internal examination. As per the witnesses who were watching the play before the interruption, it was based on the lives and interactions of the actors who perform in the Ramleela plays. The ABVP took objection to these characters using cuss words and smoking and attacked the students during performance. They later filed a police complaint and the Head of Department and five students were arrested and later released on bail.
Last month, the day after the inauguration of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, a right-wing mob stormed into the FTII campus and attacked the students. They burned the banners that the FTII Students Association had put up inside the campus, in remembrance of the Babri Mosque demolition.
This attack and the reaction, or the lack of it, to it by the police and the administration is not new in Pune. The last four months have seen four such attacks on students by right-wing groups, three of which have taken place at the SPPU.
“The way they are attacking the students openly, in broad daylight and the way the university as well as the police are reacting, it is very clear that they are acting with impunity. This is shocking the students, this is not the India that they have seen. We need to ensure the students and show the attackers as well that the progressive organisations will come together and speak against these incidents,” said B. Yuvraj of Nava Samajwadi Paryay (New Socialist Alternative).
He also said that in the long term, it is necessary to open a dialogue with the students.
Speaking about the same, RJ Sangram Khopde, who is a Congress Lok Sabha candidature aspirant, said, “We first need to interact with the students and assure them. They are living away from their homes, it’s a new city for most of them.”
He also said that we need to bring together the artists and theatre, film and television industry and ask them where they stand on this issue.
“We also need to meet the Vice Chancellor and other officials at educational institutes and build a pressure on them,” Prashant Kothadiya, a well known social figure, said.
'The right-wing has been doing this constantly,' says Atharva Shinde, a student of DES Law College.
“They have been creating false enigmas through their campaigning for a long time. And after any such events, within a few minutes, they circulate their statements, their bites and their own versions of the incidents. They are experts in portraying the students, the common people as enemies. Thus, they continue to intimidate the students throughout. This happens on campus, on college groups, directly as well as inderectly,” Atharva said.
Siddhant also added that the right-wing groups always roam around the campus in large groups. “They way they roam around, their body language they use, they do everything with an agenda of sending out a message to the students,” he said.
Atharva added though that protests like the one held in the city today do help the students know that they are not alone. “However, we need to know that this support reaches the students consistently. We need to continue talking to the students and encourage them,” he said.