Give a dog a name…

The story thus far: Buddha In A Traffic Jam is an upcoming film directed by Vivek Agnihotri. Details here.

Agnihotri wanted it screened at JNU. Apparently permission “was refused” — at least, that is the story that circulated on social media, with suitable commentary on how JNU, which has set itself up as a bastion of free speech, is actually intolerant of divergent opinions.

A friend told me of this on my Twitter stream. While I have no contacts with anyone at JNU, I asked her to find out who had been approached, and who had denied permission, so someone could follow up.

Agnihotri’s go-between, one Mr Ravinder Randhawa of JNU, responded on his Facebook page. It is quoted below in full:

Dear Mr. Vivek Agnihotri,

We gave you the contact of Prof Ira Bhaskar. We requested her to ‘help’ you screen your film. She was willing to help us unconditionally. I stand witness to the fact that she is even today completely unaware of your film’s content.

1. So, lets put the record straight. You had approached her to ‘help’ you screen the film and not to seek ‘permission’ for the screening.

2. Do you realise Mr Agnihotri that at JNU or any other University, it is the administration that can grant or cancel permission and not a professor. Prof Bhaskar in her capacity as a professor cannot ‘deny permission’ to you.

3. Anyway, lets see the papers from Prof Bhaskar, where she says ‘Permission denied’ or anything to that effect. I request you to make those papers public.

4. So, who else did you approach for the screening after you were supposedly ‘denied permission’ by Prof Bhaskar? Did you approach the Dean? Rector? Proctor? Registrar? VC? JNUSU? Film Club JNU? You must have approached at least someone. Lets see those papers.

5. Prof Bhaskar told me in as many words that unfortunately there aren’t any dates available and that we could do the screening in the next semester. How is unavailability of dates ‘denying permission’ sir?

6. Basically you want them to organise a screening according to your film’s release date and not according to their academic calendar? And hence you feel ‘victimised’ because they could not alter their academic calendar?

5. So when was this screening scheduled that was ‘blocked’? Lets see a paper with date, time and venue of the screening.

Mr. Agnihotri, you backstabbed us and embarrassed us in front of one of the most respected film scholars of India. Someone who was trying to help us and help you. Disgusting!!!! I don’t want to spell here why you did it. Because I will stay honest to our private conversations and not break your trust. But you did break my trust forever. For those who don’t know, I have written the lyrics of this film. And today I feel ashamed of being a part of it. I completely disassociate myself from the Film ‘Buddha in a Traffic Jam’ Hope Buddha comes out this Jam of dishonesty and betrayal and puts some sense into the world of opportunists.

This is what happens when you create a strawman. Every passerby feels empowered to throw his or her stone at it — with no thought to the cumulative effects.