Bringing the curtains down on a long drawn-out season of controversy at the K.R. Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts, Kottayam, filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan stepped down as the Chairman of the institute, which has been at the centre of a storm following a protest movement by students demanding the resignation of the institute’s director Shankar Mohan for alleged caste discrimination.
Addressing a meet-the-press event here on Tuesday, Mr. Gopalakrishnan accused certain vested interests, who were opposed to steps initiated to bring discipline in the running of the institute, of instigating the students to protest against Mr. Mohan, who had resigned last week.
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Adoor’s accusations and minister’s position
The filmmaker said that he had a long conversation with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday, after submitting his resignation. He also released a five page statement in which he lashed out at the enquiry commission appointed by the Government, accusing it of not contacting him or Mr. Mohan and submitting a report, which had taken lies spread in social media at face value.
The institute has already been facing an unprecedented crisis with eight of its employees tendering their resignations en masse in solidarity with the outgoing director. Filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli, the academic council chairman, also submitted his resignation. Meanwhile, Higher Education Minister R. Bindu seemed to side with the findings of the enquiry commission and said that the commission was appointed with Mr. Gopalakrishnan’s approval, and its members would not have any intention to wilfully create trouble for the director or the chairman. They would have submitted the report after understanding all the issues, she said.
However, Mr. Gopalakrishnan demanded an investigation by a high-level police team to uncover the conspiracy behind the protests. He heaped praise on Mr. Mohan, whom he said had an exemplary record of over four decades during which he headed several film institutes and helmed various film festivals. Baseless allegations were raised against him to insult and sent him away, said Mr. Gopalakrishnan.
Replies to allegations
In his statement, Mr. Gopalakrishnan made pointed replies to each of the allegations. He said that the allegations of caste discrimination does not stand as none of the sanitation workers belonged to any Scheduled Caste. One cleaning staff was deployed to clean up the director’s official residence once a week, for which an additional allowance was given. No one was made to clean the toilets. However, shameful allegations were raised against Mr. Mohan’s wife, a homemaker, without ascertaining the facts. He accused the office clerk, who raised allegations of caste discrimination of slacking in his work and of being responsible for the delay in approving the grants for SC/ST students. He had also approached the SC/ST Commission, however after the Commission’s enquiry, he has now turned his ire against the Commission, said Mr. Gopalakrishnan.
Regarding allegations of discriminating against the reserved category students in admissions at the institute, he said that it was a delay on the part of the LBS Centre for Science and Technology, the government agency that conducted the screening process, which led to the situation. He said that he, the director, and the dean had conducted detailed discussions with the students, two weeks before they launched the protests. Though the discussions ended amiably, the protest movement began on December 5, without any warning. The bookings which were earlier made for the students to take part in the International Film Festival of Kerala at Thiruvananthapuram were cancelled under the assumption that the protesting students would not travel to the festival. But, the students “secretly” travelled to the festival and turned the venue into a platform to amplify their protests, he alleged.
The filmmaker accused the institute’s PRO, the watchman, two faculty members, a clerk and a storekeeper of working behind the scenes to instigate the protests, as they were against the steps taken by the administration including the implementation of a punching system, and wanted to thwart all attempts to improve the institute.
An array of faces from contemporary Malayalam cinema, including filmmakers Aashiq Abu, Mahesh Narayanan, Jeo Baby, Kamal and K.M. Kamal has been part of the protest movement demanding the director’s resignation. Mr. Gopalakrishnan has been maintaining that the filmmakers had joined in the protests without actually studying the issues. He also accused some of them of not giving a contrary opinion on the protests for fear of being labelled “old-fashioned.”