When Ajayan Adat walked out of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) performance on Wednesday night, he was satisfied. The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) student had helped organise KKM’s first appearance on stage, after allegations that the cultural troupe had Maoist links, and it had ended smoothly. But it was soon after that he was confronted by an activist of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), who demanded to know why FTII had invited the artists.
“Why did you invite the Kabir Kala Manch? Are you a Naxalite?” the ABVP activist asked Ajayan. “When I said no, he asked me which party I support. I said I am an artist and do not have political affiliations,” Ajayan told The Hindu. “If you want to prove you are not a Naxalite, then say Jai Narendra Modi,” the ABVP activist stated.
When Ajayan refused to do so, the activist shouted, “He is a Naxalite,” after which he was surrounded by other ABVP activists, who started assaulting him, Ajayan has alleged. Four other FTII students were also injured. “We knew the ABVP members watched Anand Patwardhan’s film Jai Bhim Comarade which was screened before the KKM performance. I thought they were ready for a healthy discussion,” Ajayan said.
Accusing FTII students of having Naxalite links, the ABVP called for a police inquiry on the institute on Friday. “Inspite of being government-run, the FTII invited Kabir Kala Manch members who have Naxalite links. We urge the police to investigate the anti-national forces behind this,” Anand Katikar, President of the ABVP Pune Unit stated.
The FTII Students’ Association has also alleged that a policeman in plainclothes was present when the scuffle broke out, but refused to act. “We had provided police bandobast for the event but the police had left before the fight,” Police inspector Manohar Joshi responded.
Condemning the incident, FTII Director D.J. Narain said, “The faculty, students and staff are dismayed and shocked over the turn of the events and the way the students were assaulted. This attack on the students is an attack on the very creative foundations of FTII and is unacceptable to the institution.”
FTII students have planned a march in protest of the attack on Monday. “The Students’ Association of FTII is not affiliated with any political party. We are artists and filmmakers who believe in freedom of self-expression through the medium of films, music and theatre. Attacking anyone who is expressing their thoughts through these media is highly condemnable,” a statement said.