FTII Strike 100th Day: A Battleground To Preserve The Secular Polity Of India
By Binu Mathew
19 September, 2015
Today is the 100th day of the heroic strike of the Film and Television institute of India (FTII), Pune students. For the last nine days three students are on hunger strike. Their hunger strike is now on for 200 hours. Lives are at stake, yet the Government of India doesn’t move. The strike started by 200 odd students of FTII has spread far and wide, to every nook and corner of India and has become a movement against saffronisation of India’s secular polity.
The strike began with the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as Chairman of India’s premier film institute. He is best known as Yudhishthira in the popular Mahabharata TV series. Chauhan has appeared in television serials, generally of inferior quality, and several ‘B’ grade Bollywood films, some of them can be termed as semi-porns. He is an active member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He extensively campaigned for the BJP in Haryana during the Lok Sabha elections last year.
FTII panel also was reconstituted with four of the eight members aligned with the ruling party. Some call them propagandists of BJP and its parent organisation Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sang(RSS). These include Anagha Ghaisas, who has made several documentary films of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; Narendra Pathak, a former president of the Maharashtra ABVP; Pranjlal Saikia, an office bearer of an RSS-linked organisation; and Rahul Solapurkar, who is intimately associated with the BJP.
The strike began with the slogans “No Colour” “No Fear”. Observers were curious why students took up this slogan “No Colour” as these appointments were clearly colour coded. The colour of ‘Hindutva’ – Saffron.
No one should mistake ‘Hindutva’ with the religion Hinduism. Hinduism is generally believed world over as a religion of tolerance and peace, mainly taking the life and practices of Mahatma Gandhi as an example. But people living in the strictly hierarchical caste structure of Hindusism tell a tale of oppression severe than racism. Untouchability is still practiced in many parts of India. Caste violence, rapes and killings still occur regularly in India. One of the demands of the Dalit groups in the "World Conference against Racism" held in Durban, South Africa 2001 was to term caste system as racism. But the Durban declaration failed to term caste discrimination as racism.
Hindutva on the other hand extols casteism and terms it as the best method of social organization suited to India. Manusmriti (Law of Manu) the moral and code of casteism would put the most extreme racist to shame. The Manusmriti decreed that if a lower caste person were to recite the Vedas, his tongue must be cut off, if he dared to listen to a recitation of the Vedas, molten metal be poured into his ears. In another section it says, with whatever limb a man of a low caste does hurt to (a man of the three) highest (castes), even that limb shall be cut off. A Sudra who raises his hand or a stick, shall have his hand cut off; he who in anger kicks with his foot, shall have his foot cut off. A low-caste man who tries to place himself on the same seat with a man of a high caste, shall be branded on his hip and be banished, or (the king) shall cause his buttock to be gashed . If out of arrogance a Sudra spits (on a superior), the king shall cause both his lips to be cut off; if he urines (on him), the penis; if he breaks wind (against him), the anus. If he lays hold of the hair (of a superior), the (king) should unhesitatingly cut off his hands, likewise (if he takes him) by the feet, the beard, the neck, or the scrotum. It also dehumanized women and prescribed that if married man dies, the widow should jump into the funeral pyre and die with him. This horrific crime called Sati was being practiced in India until a few decades ago.
The official biography of Hedgewar, written by C. P Bhishikar 'Sanghvriksh Ke Beej' throws light on the emergence of RSS. Dr Hedgewar alongwith B. S. Moonje, L.V. Paranjape, B.B. Thalkar and Baburao Savarkar who were all ardent advocates of Brahminical revivalism - founded Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925. Explaining the need to start RSS, Hedgewar is reported to have given two reasons : one, Muslim threat and second, assertion of the lower castes.
B.S.Moonje, one of the founders of RSS, had a personal audience with Mussolini on March 19, 1931 at 3 p.m., in Palazzo Venzia, the headquarters of the Fascist government. He visited Italy's Central Military School of Physical Education, the fascist academy of Physical Education and Balilla and Avanguardisti, organisations. According to an article written by Shamsul Islam, one of foremost scholars on Hindutva in India, titled "Marketing Fascism As Hindutva"
On March 31, 1934 Moonje, Hedgewar and others had a meeting, the subject of which was the military organisation of the Hindus, along Italian and German lines. Moonje told the gathering: "I have thought out a scheme based on Hindu Dharm Shashtra which provides for standardisation of Hinduism throughout India... But the point is that this ideal cannot be brought to effect unless we have our own swaraj with a Hindu as a dictator like Shivaji of old or Mussolini or Hitler of the present day in Italy or Germany." Moonje also wrote Preface to ‘The Scheme of the Central Hindu Military Society and its Military School’ where he declared: "This training is meant for qualifying and fitting our boys for the game of killing masses of men with the ambition of winning victory with the best possible causalities (sic) of dead and wounded while causing the utmost possible to the adversary".
M.S. Golwalker, the econd Sarsanghchalak of RSS, writes in his book "We Or Our Nationhood Defined"
" The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing,deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment not even citizen's rights. There is, at least should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation: let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races who have chosen to live in our country.”
So Hindutva has nothing to do with Hinduism. The RSS considers its saffron coloured flag as its Guru. It is a political ideology closer to Fascism which envisages a theocratic Hindu nation where minorities live without even citizenship rights.
The first victim of this fascist ideology was none other than the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi who was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, a member of the RSS. Soon after the assassination of Gandhi, RSS was banned. Until then it was working like secretive fascist organisations in Europe without a constitution and never keeping membership records. The constitution of RSS was written in 1949 on the insistence of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, then home minister of India, as a pre-condition to lift the ban. The constitution states that the Sangh had “no politics” and would remain “devoted purely to cultural work” (Article 4(b) of the RSS constitution)
After the ban was lifted, RSS worked quietly and spawned several political organizations one of which was Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which later became BJP.
After decades long efforts to polarize the society on communal lines BJP secured absolute majority in the parliamentary election of 2014 . As soon as Narendra Modi, who oversaw the Gujarat Pogrom of 2002 in which more than one thousand muslims were massacred , who also faces many criminal cases in courts of law, assumed office as the Prime Minister of India RSS quietly went about its business of changing the character of India.
The main agenda of RSS is to destroy the secular character of India and define India in terms of its fascist Hindutva ideology. The very first appointment of such nature was that of Prof. Y.Sudarshan Rao, as the chief of ICHR (Indian Council for Historical Research). Prof. Rao claims that epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata are historical events. Then nobel laureate Amartya Sen was forced out from the Chancellorship of Nalanda university. Well known writer Sethu was forced out from the Chirmanship of National Book Trust of India. Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle, a dalit discussion forum, was banned in Chennai IIT. Apart from the Chennai IIT, there was not much resistance against the cultural occupation of spaces by Hindutva forces.
Then came FTII. Although the students started it as a “No Colour” resistance, the Saffron/Hindutva/Fascist colour of the agenda was very apparent to the discerning viewer. As the strike gathered momentum and support poured in from different quarters of the civil society, the students themselves dropped the “No Colour” slogan. The larger civil society saw it as an attack on the very idea of India and its long cherished secular values.
As the strike was still going on, shedding its claim that the RSS is only a cultural organisation and not a political body.RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended a co-ordination committee meeting of 93 top RSS-BJP leaders in Delhi. In that meeting, strategies were chalked out how to take control of cultural institutions of India. The government was unabashed in its stand to clear India of ‘malicious’ elements.
The DNA Reported:
After the meeting Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma and HRD Minister Smriti Irani pledged to remove all traces of western culture from India by launching a nationwide movement. "We will cleanse every area of public discourse that has been westernised and where Indian culture and civilisation need to be restored - be it the history we read or our cultural heritage or our institutes that have been polluted over years," Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma said. The culture and HRD ministries will prepare independent road maps for the proposed culture 'cleansing' exercise which will involve school curricula, art and cinema, science and technology and libraries. "We have 39 institutions under the culture ministry, including grand museums and the National School of Drama, but we have not been up to the mark in presenting our Indian cultural heritage in a right way," said Sharma. "We will totally revamp all these institutions after a detailed roadmap is prepared."
All other spheres of Indian society is slowly being saffronised, including the food, dress habits to criminal justice delivery system. That is a subject for another article. The beef ban in several states, the dictats of several ministers and other Hindutva elements to young women how to dress, when to go out are some of the examples.
In this highly polarized and communally charged atmosphere the students of FTII held their ground. The credit goes to the students of FTII who held fast to their ideals, in spite of threats, false cases, intimidation , even putting their own future and lives at stake and fought their battle to give the whole of India time to reflect on the direction the country is taking. Now the FTII strike has become a battleground for the whole of India, to decide to which direction the country should be headed, to a new dawn of liberal, democratic, secular polity or a long dark night of fascism?
Binu Mathew is the editor of www.countercurrents.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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