The appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) has caused a huge stir with the NDA government at the Centre being targeted by activists, celebrities and opposition parties. While cinema veterans like Anupam Kher, Kiran Rao, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Amol Palekar and several others have sharply criticized Chauhan’s appointment, a few eminent members of the elite film body like cinematographer Santosh Sivan, actor Pallavi Joshi and director Jahnu Barua have resigned from their post in protest.
However, this is not the first time the Narendra Modi Government has been caught in the eye of the storm with its controversial appointments since it came to power. There have been quite a lot of instances where the Government appointed people who allegedly carry forward the party ideology to publicly run institutions. Some of them are:
Vice-Chancellor, Banaras Hindu University
Girish Chandra Tripathi, an RSS functionary, was appointed the Vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University on 24 November 2014.
According to a Times of India report, Tripathi was appointed by a search-cum-selection committee headed by Justice (retired) Giridhar Malviya , grandson of Madan Mohan Malviya and a proposer of Narendra Modi’s candidature from Varanasi.
It also turns out that Malviya and Tripathi were old associates. The report further states that Tripathi had served as the secretary of a registered society in Allahabad which was headed by Malviya.
Malviya acknowledged their association and said, “I selected him out of three names because I know he is capable.” However, opposition took the chance to fire salvos at the government terming it as a saffronisation of the university.
Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research
Many of the renowned historians expressed shock when Y Sudershan Rao was appointed the Chairperson of Indian Council of Historical Research. Noted historian and author Romila Thapar said, “Rao’s work is unfamiliar to most historians, with little visibility of research that he might have carried out.” She added that while Rao has “published popular articles on the historicity of the Indian epics” none has appeared in any “peer- reviewed journal.”
Rao’s work praising the caste system in India had generated considerable controversy. He believes that Mahabharatha and Ramayana are historical sources. He also serves as the head of the Andhra Pradesh chapter of Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY), a subsidiary of the RSS.
President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations
Lokesh Chandra, who in an interview with The Indian Express said that PM Modi is god and is greater than Gandhi, is the chief of Indian Council for Cultural Relation, an appointment made by the External Affairs Ministry on 27 October 2014.
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen had expressed concerns over this appointment as well as that of ICHR and NBT chiefs. Sen himself is slated to step down as Chancellor of Nalanda on July 17. In an interview with a newspaper he said, “The government may have held up finances or statues (to Nalanda University) had I continued.”
Chairman, National Book Trust
Former editor of RSS mouthpiece Panchajanya, Baldev Sharma, was appointed the Chairman of National Book Trust on 2 March 2014.
According to media reports, the government asked former Chairman A. Sethumadhavan to step down from his post before his tenure ended to facilitate the appointment of Sharma.
NBT is an autonomous body under the Human Resource Development Ministry.
Chairman, Central Board of Film Certification
The appointment of Pahlaj Nihalani as the Chairman of Central Board of Film Certification raised many eyebrows with many questioning that whether he was rewarded for his loyalty to the ruling party. Nihalani was appointed to the post on 19 January 2015.
He had produced the viral campaign ‘Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi’ before the 2014 general elections.
Top producers and CBFC members have complained against the policies of Nihalani and his working style. He issued a list of 28 words to be banned in movies, which included words like ‘Bombay’ and ‘Lesbian’.
Nihalani was also among the few who defended the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as FTII Chairman and accused the protesting students of indulging in politics.