Students, cinephiles, and artists from the Malayalam film industry held a demonstration on Tuesday, 13 December, at the venue of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).
They were protesting against the alleged caste discrimination by the institute’s administration.
The protest was convened following a call by the students’ council of the KR Narayanan National Institute of Visual Sciences and Arts (KRNNIVSA).
The agitation on the premises of Tagore theatre saw hundreds joining it in solidarity with the KRNNIVSA students.
Students from the Kottayam-based institute are on strike since 5 December demanding the resignation of its Director Shankar Mohan.
He stands accused of discriminating against students and employees of the institute based on their caste.
The students alleged a lack of implementation of reservation policies and denial of admissions to a student as he belonged to a marginalised community.
The protests at the IFFK venue saw participation from prominent figures in mainstream Malayalam cinema, including Aashiq Abu, Kamal KM, Jeo Baby, Bijibal, Shahabaz Aman, Vidhu Vincent, Beena Paul, Prathap Joseph, and Sajitha Madathil, along with activist Sreeja Neyyattinkara.
‘Government should order investigation’
Noted filmmaker Aashiq Abu in his address to the protesters said: “Among the issues raised by you (students), there is not even a single issue that could be ignored. All of them are serious crimes. The state government should order an investigation into these issues.”
He added: No matter how big the filmmaker is operating behind it, we all will be together with you in this struggle.”
Abu also said people like him would join a proposed strike in solidarity even after the IFFK if the students in the institute continued their agitation on campus.
He also questioned the silence of youth associations and student associations affiliated with various political parties in the state.
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Protest against Adoor Gopalakrishnan
The protesters voiced slogans and held placards against the alleged actions of the institute.
“Smash Brahmanism”, “KRNNIVSA is not your Nair Tharavaadu (ancestral home)”, and “Stop Communalism, the Director should resign” read some of the placards held up by the protesters.
The agitators also protested against iconic filmmaker and Padma Vibhushan awardee Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who is the chairman of the institute
In an interview with South First, he said the allegations made by the students were blatant lies.
He also defended Shankar Mohan, saying he did not find Mohan casteist. He also said: “Somebody’s dirty mind is operating behind all this (the controversies surrounding the institute).”
Referring to his interview in South First, the Students Council decried Gopalakrishnan terming the discrimination they have been facing and their complaints as “lies”.
The council sought to know if Gopalakrishnan had talked to students or staff members who levelled serious allegations against Mohan.
Some of the protesters also raised a placard that represented a caricature of Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shankar Mohan mimicking the poster of Gopalakrishnan’s 1994 movie Vidheyan (The Servile).
(With inputs from KA Shaji)