October 29, 2015

'Communal forces have hijacked the spirit of our constitution' - Catch News Interview with Anand Patwardhan

Catch News

Interview: Communal forces have hijacked the spirit of our constitution, says Anand Patwardhan
Vishal Manve

|29 October 2015

After acclaimed writers returned their Sahitya Akademi awards creating furore and drawing international support, renowned filmmakers too have protested against rising intolerance in India.

On 28 October, 10 filmmakers including the likes of Dibakar Banerjee, Anand Patwardhan and Rakesh Sharma joined the fray and returned their national awards to the government as the FTII strike between students and the government over appointment of Gajendra Singh crossed 140 days.

While Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called the protests as 'paper protests' and 'manufactured', academicians have written open letters to the Modi government seeking answers to attack on free speech, lynching, bans etc.

Catch spoke to Anand Patwardhan about the protests, rising level of intolerance in India and the FTII tussle.

Vishal Manve: After eminent writers and scientists, now the filmmakers have complained against rising intolerance in India. What message do you think this move will send to the current government?

Anand Patwardhan: I don't have any hope that the current government will change its mindset because of the protests. But, they may take action because people are waking up. Artists, scientists and filmmakers are speaking out; that ought to worry them and prod them to initiate action. They will definitely not change their ideology but they will change the modus operandi.

It's not only about the government but about the public too. The masses will realise that the time to speak out for a change in the system is now. Communal forces have hijacked the spirit of our constitution.

VM: Do you think, there is a direct rise in number of intolerance-related incidents after the Modi government came to power?

AP: No, this has been happening before the Modi government came into power. This has been happening for decades as the right-wingers attempted to grab power. I think the rising intolerance in India is directly proportional to who was engineering these attacks and emboldening the Hindutva groups.

This polarisation has been taking place for decades and BJP and NDA managed to come to power twice. So, we need not label any government at the Centre for these incidents but find forces that are engineering this polarisation.

Don't look at who is in power; observe the forces that are unleashed and how right-wingers are emboldened under any rule. Beef killing has a direct BJP hand as it was reported that a BJP leader's son had fabricated the story of beef consumption and asked the local priest to announce it. This deliberate lie led to a riot-like situation. Investigations are on, so let's see if the truth comes out.

VM: Jaitley and other NDA leaders have dismissed all the protests as manufactured. Do you think this is a worrisome trend?

AP: Why should we worry about what those in power have to say? We will do what is necessary. They (the government) will not give us medals for our actions but only complain and dismiss our actions. It is the ordinary public that has to think about the current chain of events.

VM: How difficult was it returning the awards?

AP: There is a quite a bit of emotional attachment to it and the award means a lot. It was difficult for me to return my first award that I received for 'Bombay Our City' that spoke about human rights violations, urban poverty etc. The award symbolised that the government in power back then had decided to notice our work and uphold the spirit of the constitution, which our current Modi government is completely against. They don't understand the pain that we artists, activists and creative people feel while returning the awards.

VM: Do you think mainstream actors will join the protests?

AP: Many people will join the protests including mainstream actors. The conscience of the society has been awakened after the recent incidents. A group of people with a conscience will definitely raise their voice.

VM: There had been instances of communal clashes and intolerance even during the UPA tenure and for the past one year as well. So, why did all the writers including you decide to return the award now?

AP: The current government has the same ideology as the right-wingers. We were thinking of protesting ever since the FTII strike began. The government was refusing to negotiate for a long time. Then, suddenly, it showed signs of negotiating and reaching a solution, which hasn't happened anyways.

After 140 days of strike, the students were tired and went back to their academics. But, they also appealed to filmmakers to keep the momentum going. They don't want any professor to lead them just because of his affiliation to the saffron group. They just want someone with proper qualifications and hence have put their foot down against the appointment. They have fought a very heroic battle and showed way to India for protesting when everyone else was intimidated.