Rahul Gandhi on Friday mounted a blistering attack on the Modi government saying the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its ideologues have a “larger scheme” of “undermining” educational, bureaucratic and judicial systems and “bullying” 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 systems.
“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,” Gandhi said addressing the agitating students of Film and Televison Institute of India (FTII) and pledging support to their demand for removal of its Chairman Gajinder 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.”
The Congress Vice President 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.”
Gandhi 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,” Gandhi said during an an open session with the protesting students.
He assured the students that he would raise their voice in Parliament.
During Gandhi’s visit, BJP workers raised slogans outside.
FTII students have been on strike for the past 50 days objecting to appointment of TV actor Chauhan, known for his role of Yudhishtira in popular tele-serial Mahabharat and a member of the BJP, as institution’s chairman. He has rejected calls for his resignation.
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.
During the interaction, a girl student complained that FTII students were getting threats from local groups and referred to the vandalism at the FTII gate and false FIRs and allegations of drug abuse being made to tarnish their image.
Expressing concern, Gandhi said, “everybody should have space and freedom of expression and there should be no threats.”
In a lighter vein, he said, “you can make a movie on this very subject—the government trying to stifle your voice. You should do what you please.”
He said there was a “fundamental difference in the thinking of the RSS and that of the students.”
“The RSS thinks they only have knowledge which has to be transferred through the teachers (of their choice). In their mind you are there just to absorb what they have to say.”
In a sarcastic note, he said, “they think they can understand and explain the universe. The RSS is trained that way”.
“For me, you are the institute and you should be happy,” he said.
Referring to the criticism that the government was spending a lot of tax payers’ money on the students at the FTII, Gandhi said film making was an important profession and it is not that just engineers make contribution to the country.
“‘Mother India’ and ‘Sholay’ too are huge part of being an Indian,” he added.
Rahul, who was accompanied by actors-turned Congress leaders Khushboo, Chiranjeevi and Raj Babbar, said, “the RSS does not understand the idea of India”.
Spending money on the FTII students was equally important as they too were doing a service to the nation just as a software engineer does, he commented, adding “(L K) Advaniji and (Arun) Jaitley also watch movies”.
Gandhi also shared their concerns over the Central government’s alleged moves for privatisation of the country’s premier institute and said he will join them in their protest if such a move was made.
Stating that there is space for government in education, Rahul in a free-wheeling interaction with the students whose strike entered the 50-day today, said ” I am not for privatisation of this institute. The FTII is a government institute. We should build and scale it up.”
When a student claimed that the talk of the FTII privatisation was heard even during the UPA regime, he said that he would be “surprised” if the Congress party allowed this to happen.
“If they try to privatise, I will sit with you (in your protest)”, he added, drawing an applause from the students.
The FTII management has already served the students, who are boycotting classes since June 12, a notice of possible rustication if they did not withdraw the agitation and returned to academics.