Rahul Gandhi on Friday mounted a blistering attack on the Modi government, saying appointment of actor Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of the premier Film and Television Institute of India institute in Pune formed part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s “larger scheme” to undermine educational, bureaucratic and judicial system.
On a visit to the FTII campus to pledge support to the students agitating for removal of Chauhan, he said the RSS and its ideologues are “undermining” the institution’s stature by promoting “mediocrity” and bullying the critics as “anti-national and “anti-Hindu.”
“RSS and its ideologues are systematically promoting mediocre people in the system. They are hell-bent on undermining the educational institutions’ stature...it is not going on just in the education system but also in bureaucratic and judicial system,” he said.
“RSS wants to promote their idea. They will call you anti-national, anti-Hindu. They are scared of you. That is the nature of a bully,” he said.
Gandhi, clad in casuals, had an interaction with the students of the campus that has produced several leading personalities of contemporary Indian cinema, who have rallied behind the agitating students.
He said the government was suppressing the voice of the students by refusing to have a meaningful discussion on their demand.
“They (students) have only one demand that they (want to) have a discussion and want their voice to be heard... All that the students are saying is that there should be a discussion and their voice should be heard”.
“They (the government) don’t want discussion.. anything that does not suit their ideology is anti-national. What is anti-national about these students who want to make their films.. What could be more pro-national than that.”
The Congress vice president said having a discussion with the students would not dent the prestige of the government since they are future film makers of the country’
“This would not make the government small if they listen to the students. They are the future of film makers of the country. All that they are doing is expressing themselves and studying. It is not nice of the government to try and impose their wishes on them.”
Saying that this “little school” was “disturbing” the government’s peace of mind, he said all that it wants to promote its idea and would brand the protesting students as “anti-national”.
“Why is that a little school with around 250 students is disturbing the government’s peace of mind. If students don’t want him (Gajendra Chauhan), then he clearly should not be there. This is an attempt to bully you,” he said during an an open session with the protesting students.
He assured the students that he would raise their voice in Parliament.
As Gandhi visited the prestigious institution, Bharatiya Janata Party workers raised slogans outside.
FTII students have been on strike for the past 50 days objecting to appointment of TV actor Chauhan as institution’s chairman.
Gandhi also used the platform to draw comparisons between the Congress and the BJP regime saying, “In Congress whenever there is an issue, it is discussed... some agree some don’t. But in BJP if the prime minister has decided, no one can say anything”.
Earlier this month, the students’ body had written to leaders from various political parties requesting them to intervene and urge the government to revoke the appointments of ‘unfit’ people and to set up a transparent procedure for future appointments.
After interacting with students to know their concerns leading to the 50-day-old strike Rahul told reporters that “what the students are doing is the right thing. The government should have a dialogue with them and not stifle their voice”.
“All that they are asking for is a dialogue with the government to discuss their demands. This is not a big ask. The government will not look smaller if it agrees to hold talks with the students who are future of the country”.
Rahul, who spent time to watch three short films in the FTII auditorium after his interaction with students, said “we can raise the issue in the Parliament. It is not nice of the government to impose its wishes on the students. I am here to help them.”
Pointing out that it was the BJP government that was in power and not the Congress, Gandhi said “they (BJP) brand every ideology as anti-national that they do not like”.
Several leading film personalities, including renowned director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, have come out in support of the student in their demand that Chauhan is not eminently qualified to be made the chairman of the FTII society.
Chauhan, known for his role of Yudhishtir in the popular tele-serial Mahabharat and a member of the BJP, has ruled out his resignation.
Activists of the National Students' Union of India and BJP raised slogans against each other slogan before Gandhi arrived at the campus.
While the BJP activists raised slogans in support of Gajendra Chauhan, the pro-Congress NSUI raised anti-Modi slogans.
Image: Rahul Gandhi interacts with the students of FTII. Photographs: @officeofRG/Twitter