(Originally written on the occasion of 100 days of strike at the FTII. Reposted in light of the recent violence at Ramjas University, and in support of the group that considers considers culture, protest and dissent as significant elements within a democracy)
I’m trying to collect an arsenal of stories to tell you so you think I’m the coolest aunt when you grow older.
On 16th September, the Film and Television Institute of India (which will hopefully be headed by someone who’s a little more qualified than having played the lead in a mythological saga by the time you read this) held a protest at Azad Maidan because the NDA government has made some controversial appointments at the highest posts to one of the most credible institutions in the country, has completely disregarded merit and has been unapologetically apathetic to the students who have been striking for almost 100 days now.
Here’s what I learnt at my first ever protest:
- Don’t assume sole responsibility of initiating slogan chanting – you can never be too sure if it’s the right moment. This is especially important, lest you want to give a warrior’s cry of “Inquilab zindabad” only to be met with dead silence, a few sympathetic looks, and several glaring ones.
- You will never be the muse of the hundred people frantically running around with their DSLRs, no matter how sincere you (pretend to) look, the focus in the protest is always on the masses. Sigh.
- It’s OKAY to have images of Bhagat Singh or Subhash Chandra Bose or Gandhi, or all three, in black and white, poised heroically in their struggle for freedom, flash through your mind – repeatedly; provided, of course, that progress in science has still rendered it impossible to read your mind.
- Fortunately for your parents, and unfortunately for the raging rebel in you who has seen way too many documentaries and read way too many biographies, not every protest ends with having to spend a night at the police station. More often than not, it ends with more questions than answers, but it also intensifies your ardor for what you believe in.
- Always, always muster the courage to go up to the mike or makeshift stage and say aloud what in your head sounded like a revolutionary line. I promise you, it is a revolutionary line.
- And lastly, tip your hat to George Orwell, because truer words have never been spoken – In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
(The writer stands in complete solidarity with the students and faculty at FTII as they reach 100 days of strike in their plea to have their concerns addressed by the I&B ministry. It is shameful that the world’s largest democracy should turn a deaf ear to its voices of dissent.)