Thrissur (Kerala): Journalist Anjana George, who is also a film-maker, digital content strategist, and gender advocate, has alleged that she was harassed, insulted, and threatened by a group of students, who also attempted to damage her car with hammers, in connection with the screening of her documentary at ‘Kerala Kalamandalam’ on Thursday.
Alleging that the incident shed light on the evident lack of respect for punctuality, professionalism, and gender sensitivity within the institution, she said, “It is crucial for educational institutions like Kerala Kalamandalam to foster an environment of inclusivity, respect, and safety for all participants.”
Such incidents should not be tolerated, and it is essential for the administration to address and rectify these issues to ensure the well-being and dignity of everyone involved in future events, she said in a message here on Friday.
Stating on the incidents, she said, “As a resource person for a workshop on gender sensitivity and prevention of violence against women, I was invited to Kerala Kalamandalam to be at 2 pm on July 20, 2023.”
“The schedule also included a screening of my documentary film ‘Man Up’ (Preview) at 6 pm. I travelled all the way from Ernakulam to Kalamandalam at my expense and became part of the workshop, which I was offering for free.”
“However, from the beginning, it was apparent that the programme was disorganised and lacked proper planning.”
“The session was supposed to commence at 2 pm, but due to students’ tardiness, it was delayed until 2:45 pm. Unfortunately, the same lack of punctuality was witnessed during the 6 pm screening.”
“During the documentary screening, technical difficulties arose, and I found myself running around, seeking assistance in connecting the necessary cables to the TV. Despite multiple attempts, the glitches persisted, causing a delay in the screening process. Nobody came in for help except a technician. The entire setup for the screening was kind of humiliating for me as I have been working on my documentary for the past seven months and completed the edit exclusively to screen it at Kerala Kalamandalam.”
“Around 7 pm, feeling exasperated and seeking help from the organising teachers (who were absent), I approached the students. A student named Anooj walked in for assistance. Since I had an issue with his attitude, I left the podium and went and sat behind the stage. He came behind and asked for the YouTube link to the video from my friend.”
“As I had said, it’s the preview (First screening) of my film, and expecting empathy, I asked him, “How would you feel if you had rehearsed a creative piece for days and faced such technical challenges?”
“To my surprise and dismay, Anooj responded in a disrespectful and dismissive manner, even resorting to insulting remarks.”
He said, “I did not speak to you. I am talking to him’ here. Why should I care about your film? Just get it over with.”
“I was upset and got up from there, deciding not to screen my film. In response to his behaviour, I asked him if he behaves the same way with mothers and sisters. Unfortunately, instead of understanding, the situation escalated into harassment, with the students threatening to prevent me from screening my film.”
“The entire incident was treated as if I insulted ‘his mother’. The student’s tone was acceptable to them, but my response tone wasn’t.”
“As I tried to leave the premises to avoid further confrontation, the students and teachers (who weren’t present until then and had no clue about the incident) blocked my car, refusing to let me depart until the issue was resolved to their satisfaction. ”
“The teacher wanted me to resolve it as she would face flak as the organiser. While I asked her where the organisers were when the instance happened, it was then manipulated as me insulting their teacher.”
“Feeling pressured and concerned for my safety and that of my companions, I reluctantly agreed to apologise to Anooj, hoping to defuse the situation. They even attempted to damage my car with a hammer near the gate.”
“I got out of the car and apologised. The students weren’t happy and demanded that I walk back along with them to the Koothambalam and apologise.”
“The demand for a public apology in front of a crowd in the ‘Koothambalam’ was distressing and inappropriate, considering the circumstances. Understanding the potential risks of defying the mob, I reluctantly complied, despite the unjust nature of the request.”
“I went there to talk about gender sensitivity, and Anooj’s misbehaviour was completely unrelated to the topic. None of them seemed to grasp the importance of the workshop’s theme, and instead, they took issue with me questioning the disrespectful behaviour. As an educator who has been teaching since 2009 in various colleges, I believe it is vital to uphold the principles of gender sensitization, regardless of one’s gender. I also believe it’s my responsibility to raise this issue in public as a gender advocate.”
“The earlier said teacher even said, “Kuttikallalle vittukala” (Leave it, they are kids), as if my concerns were insignificant because I was a woman. Gender discrimination and double standards should not be perpetuated, and all individuals, regardless of gender, should be treated with respect and dignity.”
She also urged the administration of Kerala Kalamandalam and other relevant authorities to engage in constructive dialogue, raise awareness about the incident, and advocate for a more inclusive and respectful environment within the institution.
Commenting on her bad experience at a prestigious institution, she said, “Let us all work together to create an environment where gender sensitivity and respect for all are upheld, and incidents like these become a thing of the past.”