The students of K.R. Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts, Kottayam, who have been on an indefinite strike demanding the resignation of the institute’s director for alleged caste discrimination, staged a protest on Tuesday at Tagore Theatre here, the main venue of the ongoing 27th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).
The students have accused Shankar Mohan, the director, of meting out “inhumane treatment” towards students and staff and discriminating against them on the basis of caste. Among other allegations against Mr. Mohan include forcing sanitation workers to do domestic labour at his official residence and denying admission to a Dalit student.
An array of faces from contemporary Malayalam cinema, including filmmakers Aashiq Abu, Mahesh Narayanan, Jeo Baby, Kamal, K.M. Kamal, Vidhu Vincent, actor Sajitha Madathil and musician Shahabaz Aman joined the students in the protest in which a large number of delegates participated. Mr. Narayanan said the demonstration was being held to “save” the institute.
The students had on Monday released an open letter condemning filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, chairman of the institute, for his comments dismissing the allegations of caste discrimination. They accused him of dismissing their allegations as fake without ever holding any discussion with them. They also questioned his reported statement that Mr. Mohan, a person from “a good family”, is unlikely to behave in the said manner.
The institution has been also accused of indulging in retaliatory action by cancelling the room reservations for 52 students, including two female students, who arrived in the capital to attend the IFFK. Though the students attempted to contact the director and other officials, their calls went unattended. The State Chalachitra Academy later arranged temporary accommodation for the students.
Minister for Higher Education and Social Justice R.Bindu said in a press release that a three-member committee appointed to inquire into the allegations raised by the students will immediately submit its report, based on which action will be taken.