Wednesday, 29 March 2017

76 Filmmakers and Supporters Write to Director, SRFTI, Debamitra Mitra Regarding Dissolution of ICC for Sexual Harassment

Several members of the FTII alumni, as well as the current students sent a joint letter today to the director SRFTI with copies to the Registrar, SRFTI, Secy, I&B, Joint Secy I&B and Amala Akkineni to express their concern regarding the recent developments on the campus with regards to the 6 sexual harassment complaints filed in December 2015 by 4 students against their professors. Here is the letter:

The Director

Dear Madam,
We are a group of ex-students of the FTII, Pune, and it is with deep concern that we write this letter to you. We are anxious about the recent developments on your campus with regard to the 6 sexual harassment complaints filed in December 2015 by 4 students against their professors.
Our response to the fact of multiple complaints by women students against faculty members and fellow students was of distress. But we saw it as a positive development that SRFTI gave the women students the space to speak confidently and fearlessly. We also lauded the prompt action against the accused faculty members. The constitution of the ICC headed by a faculty member, Putul Mahmood, inquiring and investigating the complaints seemed to be a step in the correct direction to ensure that justice would be sought. As a community of filmmakers deeply connected to cinema education in the country and to your premier film institute (many of us have been on the campus as selection committee members or for workshops) we have followed the developments with concern. It was reassuring to note that the complaints were treated with utmost importance and action was taken to ensure a fair investigation.

Many of us are a part of online feminist discussion groups where a few groups posted a letter, dated 22 March 2017, which they have received from you in response to their letter. Through this exchange we became aware of the decision to dissolve the ICC. You have written, “Please be assured that there are strong reasons for formation of a new ICC.” In the same letter you have indicated that this administrative decision has been ratified in the Governing Council.

The disturbing news of the current ICC being dissolved, before its three-year term is over and while the aforementioned cases are ongoing, (despite the fact that its workings have been in strict accordance with norms laid down by the government) has prompted us to write to you. This step puts into question both the work done by the ICC since the time the complaints were made, as also the integrity of your own faculty member in charge of the investigation. It is unfortunate that the important work put in by the ICC, that also includes respected activists with sound understanding of the laws pertaining to sexual harassment, is being discarded.

We can see the impact this will have on the women students who have complained, on the faculty member who has already faced hostility for her role in the ICC, and for the devastating precedence this will set. This will subvert the work that the ICC put in.

We are unable to comprehend why the institute felt it was necessary to dissolve the ICC when their report has been submitted and the previous Governing Council has ratified it and found the accused faculty members guilty. The accused have challenged this in court so it becomes all the more necessary for the institute to stand by the finding and recommendations of the ICC. We would be grateful if you could make public the reasoning behind your sudden decision.

We are disturbed that the women students on campus are vulnerable and are facing constant abuse, harassment, violence, threats and ostracization. This is an outright violation of the basic human right to live with dignity and function freely and fearlessly as students of creative arts.
We are disturbed when you say ‘’I cannot discriminate my students on grounds of genders or on any other narrow considerations’’ and again ‘’... nefarious attempt by some misguided wayward women to bring disrepute to the entire women community’’.

In these sentences there appear to be pre-existing judgements, both about 'gender being a narrow consideration', as well as about the idea of 'misguided wayward women'. While we appreciate your attempts at forging a gender neutral policy on the SRFTII campus, we are worried that those discriminations that have been present historically, due to gender-specificity, e.g. sexual harassment of women, will be made totally invisible.

Similarly, while the case is sub-judice, it seems that you have already pronounced a judgement against the complainants, by naming them as 'misguided wayward women'. We acknowledge this as your personal moral view on sexuality. However, we are of the opinion that institutions that teach creative arts cannot afford to have such prescriptive approaches to sexual rights, especially for women.

We are alumni of FTII and the three accused faculty members are our peers. This is painful for us but there is no doubt that as professionals who are invested in film education and our film schools we expect these campuses to be spaces where students can speak freely and fearlessly about their vulnerabilities or any harassment they might face. This can be achieved only if the systems put into place to ensure justice are respected. Dissolving this very same committee appears to be an attempt to disregard the very system that was meant to bring justice.
We would like a reassurance that the ICC will get your full support to ensure a speedy trial so as to restore an environment on campus that is conducive both to gender justice and to learning. We remain deeply connected to your institute and it is on this basis that we have written to you to express our dismay.

Thank you

1. Ajay Raina, Direction 1990
2. Ajayan Adat, Audiography 2016
3. Aman Wadhan, Direction 2016
4. Amit Tiwari, Acting 2012
5. Anupama Chandra, Editing 1999
6. Amala Popuri, Audiography 2000
7. Anindya Shanker Das, Direction 2016
8. Anushree Kushwaha, Acting 2016
9. Aparna Subramanian, Sound recording and TV Engineering 2010
10. Arindam Ghatak, Editing 2005
11. Arjun Gourisaria, Editing 1989
12. Aruna Raje, Direction 1969
13. Asheesh Pandya, Audiography 1988
14. Ashwini Malik, Direction 1993
15. Batul Mukhtiar, Direction 1995
16. Bina Paul, Editing 1983
17. Chandita Mukherjee, Direction 1975
18. Deepti Khurana, Direction 2011
19. Deepti Gupta, Cinematography 1998
20. Dinker Sharma, Acting 2014
21. Dipti Bhalla Verma, Editing 1984
22. Firoza Khan, Direction 1989
23. Fowzia Fathima, Cinematography 1998
24. Gadadhar Puty, Editing 1982
25. Gauri Durga Chakravarty, Production Management 1998
26. Gauri Patwardhan, Editing 1989
27. Hansa Thapliyal, Direction 1998
28. Heer Ganjwala, Direction 2015
29. Irene Dhar Malik, Editing 1991
30. Jabeen Merchant, Editing 1996
31. Jill Misquitta, Direction 1980
32. Kamal KM, Direction 2004
33. Kavita Joshi, Direction 1996
34. Kavita Pai, Editing 1999
35. Kislay, Editing 2015
36. Mahadeb Shi, Editing 1985
37. Manoj Lobo, Cinematography 2004
38. Namita Nayakchopra, Audiography 1991
39. Nandan Kudhyadi, Direction & Screenplay 1979
40. Nandini Bedi, Editing 1987
41. Nishtha Jain, Direction 1998
42. Pankaj Rishi Kumar, Editing 1992
43. Paramita Ghosh, Editing 2011
44. Pinky Brahma Choudhury, Direction 1993
45. Prateek Vats, Direction 2011
46. Pooja Sharma, Cinematography 2006
47. Puloma Pal, Editing 2007
48. Raja Sayed, Cinematography 1988
49. Ravi Choudhary, Acting 2012
50. Ramchandra PN, Direction 1990
51. Reena Mohan, Editing 1982
52. Ruchika Oberoi, Direction 1998
53. Samarth Dixit, Editing 2014
54. Sameera Jain, Editing 1982
55. Samvartha Sahil, Screenplay 2014
56. Sanjeev Sood, Cinematography 1984
57. Sanjiv Shah, Editing 1981
58. Satya Rai Nagpaul, Cinematography, 2004
59. Satyajit Pande, Cinematography 1999
60. Saumananda Sahi, Cinematography 2009
61. Shabnam Sukhdev, Direction 1995
62. Shobhit Jain, Editing 1993
63. Shubham, Acting 2009
64. Sriram Raja, Editing 2016
65. Suresh Rajamani, Audiography 1987
66. Surabhi Sharma, Direction 1998
67. Tanu Loht, Acting 2012
68. Tanusree Das, Editing 2005
69. Uma Tanku, Direction 1999
70. Vinay Kumar, Acting 2012
71. Viraj Tadwalkar, Electronic Cinematography 2015
72. Vipinkumar Vaghmare, Electronic Cinematography 2015
73. Yashasvi Mishra, Acting 2013
74. Srishti wadhwani - Acting 2011
75. Abhijeet Khuman Direction Television, 2014-2016
76. Swati Jaswal, Editing 2016

This update first appeared as a Facebook post by filmmaker Nishtha Jain

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