‘Intolerance’ is one word that is mostly used by everyone, both laymen and celebrities, in India right now. While a few believe that India is under the grip of intolerance, others opine otherwise. It is the rising communal tensions in the country that have made many from different walks of life, including the film fraternity, to come out and express their views.
Shah Rukh Khan, Kamal Haasan, and Aamir Khan are a few who poured their heart out only to face criticism from all corners. However, it seems, more people are willing to talk about the situation.
Director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, who had visited the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) venue in Goa with his friends Prakash Bare and Jiju Antony, was exposed to such a situation.
The incident made Sanal to put up a post in Facebook which read, “When someone talks about intolerance, people jump into conclusion that the person is anti national and start abusing him or her. Then quickly we classify all of them as Sanghi or intolerant fascist. This is also not the right thing to do. All of them are not necessarily intolerant or Sanghis. Most of them love democracy, peace and diversity in opinion. But unfortunately most of these people are ignorant about the situation this country is going through.”
When contacted, he said, “Unlike before, this year, the presence of FTII students was poor at the IFFI. Two students were arrested on the inaugural day of the IFFI for showing placards. A few students were not even allowed to leave Pune for the festival. Even on parallel platforms, students were not allowed to put up posters. We were wondering why our intellectuals, who had reacted when the FTII issue broke out, remain silent. For them, activism is not meant for artistes. The day before yesterday, a few students gave us badges that read ‘Save FTII’. We clipped it on to our chests; it created uproar. Police threatened to arrest us and when we bravely told them to do so, they left. It was like going through the Emergency period.”
They had to face yet another similar situation at the festival. However, this time, more people came forward to protect them. As per Prakash Bare’s Facebook post, when a large crowd gathered to oppose the arrest proclaiming “India is a democracy, not a police raj”, the police was forced to allow the delegates to wear protest badges.
“In this country, the majority still believe in secularism, so India is not intolerant! But certain elements in this country are. In this particular case, the authorities were clearly being intolerant of even silent and non-violent protests,” he said.
Do we lack freedom of expression? Does intolerance exist in Kerala? “We have freedom. But, freedom is like hinges of a door. If you don’t use it, it will go futile. In Kerala, until we raise questions, we wouldn’t be aware of its presence,” says Sanal.
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