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#MeToo campaign reaches FTII portals, letter accuses director of victimization

A student of the 2016 batch has sent a complaint to the institute's internal complaints committee, the FTII chairman and the I&B ministry accusing the director of intimidation and hampering her growth because she bore witness against a faculty member in another case.

Bhupendra Kainthola, FTII director

Our Correspondent

So far it was individuals from the film industry who were coming out with accusations of sexual harassment. Now shocking allegations of harassment, intimidation and abuse of power are emanating from the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).

A student of direction and screenplay from the 2016 batch has written anonymously to the internal complaints committee (ICC) of the institute, chairman Anupam Kher, and the Union information and broadcasting ministry accusing FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola of intimidation, creating a hostile work environment, and obstructing her work because she raised her voice against sexual harassment.

A copy of the letter has made its way into media circles. In the long post, the victim narrated her ordeal from the time she bore witness for a colleague who was sexually abused.

“I am writing to you after being ostracized by the student community and ridiculed by the director after my complaint against [a batchmate] L and my stance against a faculty by the name Nilanjan Dutta in a case of sexual harassment," the writer said.

"The Sexual Harassment Act (sic) told me that ICC has to be approached if there is any kind of harassment as a result of complaining against sexual harassment or being a witness in a case of sexual harassment. After having waited so long for justice I am once again seeking it through due process,” she said.

The victim said she was among those who had stood as a witness against Dutta. The complainant and 27 others had signed a letter asking the administration to look into allegations of misconduct against the faculty member.

At the time, Kainthola had assured the women that a fair investigation would be carried out. But the letter writer said it only marked the beginning of a harrowing time for her. 

The woman said she wasn’t sure of appropriate action being taken against Dutta for he had allegedly been dismissed before for a similar offence, only to be reinstated.

The letter hit out at Kainthola for not seriously addressing her complaints. The writer claimed she was harassed by one classmate, identified only as L, who was suspended from the hostel for three months, only to return and continue to harass her.

“When director Kainthola handed over the ICC report to me in front of a few members of the ICC, [it] told me that FTII had no intention whatsoever to address the rampant sexism and sexual harassment on campus," the letter went on.

"Kainthola handed over the report to me and said that I might not be ‘happy’ with the action taken against L. It was so humiliating to think the head of the institute thought my complaint was about procuring some punishment for a man and being ‘happy’ with it. This was gender discrimination and sexual harassment harming my work as a film student. I was seeking justice and he was talking about some sort of pleasure he thought I might be getting out of this complaint."

The woman has accused another professor of trying to sabotage her marks. She wrote that Sandeep Chatterjee, head of the direction department, evaluated her marks and was shocked to find big gaps in her internal evaluation.

“He wrote to Kainthola regarding this, but no action was taken ... and there was no inquiry into this discrimination," she wrote. "Instead, to my utter shock, I was given a notice which said I will be suspended from FTII for the whole of the sixth semester, that I had to vacate the hostel at the end of fifth semester, that I would not be allowed to make my diploma film, that none of my films would be sent to any festival, I would not get any scholarships or be sent on any foreign exchange programmes."

Worse, the letter said, Chatterjee was warned by the administration for misconduct and served with a show-cause notice.