Pune: After the brazen attack inside the campus of Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, students are still wary of going back to how things were before. Multiple students and the student association claim there has been no help from the college administration, and they are left to fend for themselves.
The Mooknayak talked to a student of FTII who wished to remain anonymous about the next course of action. The petrified student, who is still in shock, revealed, “we are demanding support from the registrar and our director but haven’t received any yet. We are asking students; especially the eyewitnesses, to not be afraid and to come forward in providing evidence for the crime that has taken place. We are talking and providing support and solidarity to each other.”
They continued, “The thing is, we are still scared. This is because of the fact that some outsiders had entered the campus, which in general is supposed to feel safe to us. After the goons were pushed out, they kept on shouting “Bahar mil, bahar dekhte hai. (Meet outside, we will see what happens then).”
Surprisingly, the first FIR was lodged against the students of FTII for hurting religious sentiments. The Deccan Gymkhana police registered a case against six students from the Film and Television Institute of India following a late-night cross-complaint on Tuesday. The complaint was related to the display of a banner and posters containing alleged "objectionable" content under the Wisdom Tree on the institute campus. The charges against the students include making statements and claims that are detrimental to national integration, as well as engaging in deliberate and malicious acts aimed at outraging the religious sentiments of any community by insulting its religion or beliefs. The cross-complaint was filed by Rutuja Mane, the president of the women's wing of the Samast Hindu Bandhav Samajik Sanstha, the group alleged to have entered the campus to assault and abuse students.
The Student Association further filed an FIR against the miscreants at the Deccan Gymkhana police station under sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 143 (unlawful assembly), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 427 (mischief causing damage), and other applicable provisions.
A press note and a condemnation statement was released on January 24 by the FTII Student Association which read as, “Following the dreadful events of yesterday when a mob of Hindutvavadi mob barged into our institute and attacked our students, the campus still remains terrorized. The news came to us from social media that this same organization has filed an FIR against us charging us of serious and false offenses. Now five of our students are anticipating the worst.”
“When our institute filed an FIR against the mob, they failed to mention some grievous happenings of the day, including the charge of infringing on women's modesty. One of our female students was physically attacked by the assailants and that has no mention in the charges. Additionally, the seriousness of the fight has been underplayed in the FIR as well as in the media. The assailants not just burnt banners and shouted slogans in the name of Ram, they also pushed, slapped, shoved, punched and attacked many students gathered there while hurling abuses. Students, while holding their ground, were trying to defend everyone.”
“There is a serious concern about how this event is being portrayed on social media platforms. Hindutva organizations have painted a false picture of the events. Students have not attacked anyone; we were only defending ourselves. In addition, they are the ones who have threatened us with further violence if we step out of the campus premises. It also brings into question who all have been highlighted in their charges-a random targeting of five students out of a gathering all of whom were defending themselves and one who accompanied the injured to the hospital. There are other social media posts threatening FTII students with physical violence and harassment.”
“In addition, the assailants got offended by our remembrance of the history of our country. We were reading texts that were secular in nature and trying to uphold the basic rights that are due to all citizens of our country- rights that have been taken away from many of our citizens, and that continue to be rejected to many today.”
“This is apparent in the charges made against our students. If upholding secular values and expressing dissent against their erasure is considered objectionable and worthy of violence to these assailants, we feel strongly that everyone should be alerted of the dire straits we are in, and the kind of terror that surrounds us today.”
"Our administration has taken a soft stance in helping the students wrongly accused in this case, even though they face horrendous risks. They have stated that they cannot help us and will not take a protective stand. In addition, they have said that some senior members themselves have been offended by our expression and hence will not lend help. Again, it brings into question what these members in important posts think about freedom of expression and of our rights to highlight secular values- values that have been enshrined in our constitution."
"After much convincing throughout the day, they have agreed to make supplementary charges to the FIR the institute has filed, highlighting the attack on women and their safety in the campus, something they should have done before and offered us a semblance of reassurance."
"We condemn this attack and the support that they enjoy from the authorities inside and and outside our campus. We appeal to everyone reading this to raise your voices against this breach of our rights, and the further terror caused by the spurious charges filed against our students. The freedom of expression and the right to dissent is under serious threat in these times, and one must continue to fight for these imperative beliefs."
The Mooknayak has reached out to the FTII seeking an official comment on the episode. We will provide updates once a response is received.
The student recalled the fearful incident, “whichever student tried helping us was beaten up. The mob then started hurling abuse at us, while chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’. It was our president who had reached the college gate first, when they got to know about the mob. The goons forcefully entered while beating and dragging our president by his hair and collar.”
The banner with the words "Remember Babri, Death of Constitution" had been put up by the FTII Students Association on the campus on 22nd January. A gathering of around 20 individuals, clad in saffron attire, assembled at the campus gates on 23rd January, prompting security personnel to intervene. Despite efforts to control the situation, the group vehemently chanted slogans such as "Jai Shree Ram" and "Bharat Mata ki Jai."
Tensions escalated upon encountering students, resulting in a physical assault on the president of the student association, causing severe injuries. Undeterred, the mob forcefully entered the campus, targeting the wisdom tree area and vandalizing banners and installations created by students. The chaos continued as they moved towards the studios, causing damage to college property and assaulting students who attempted to intervene, including a brutal attack on the general secretary of the student association.
Following the incident, four students, including one female, sustained serious injuries, though their current conditions are stable. This disturbing event occurred in the wake of a previous incident on 21st January 2024, where another mob, wielding sticks, had threatened students at the gates. Despite repeated requests for increased security, the situation unfolded, leading to the filing of an FIR with ongoing investigations.