Pune, August 20
Central Government’s three-member team will hold negotiations with protesting Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students on Friday to resolve the deadlock over appointment of BJP member and actor Gajendra Chauhan to the institute’s chair.The team was swiftly constituted by the Information and Broadcast Ministry after a confrontation between students and FTII’s administration led to the midnight arrest of five students on Tuesday after the institute’s director Prashant Pathrabe accused them of illegally confining him to his office.
The team will talk to students at the institute in an attempt to break the bitter 71-day-old impasse that has paralysed academics at the institute.Earlier in the day, protesters called for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to resolve the deadlock.“Prime Minister should visit FTII to resolve the issues. Students in the country are feeling threatened by the government’s apparent insensitivity towards their problems,” Vikas Urs, a representative from FTII Students’ Association (FSA) told reporters.Urs is one of the five students accused and arrested late on Tuesday for rioting. Patharbe claimed he was “tortured, threatened, physically pushed around and subjected to disrespectful and insulting behaviour” by about 40-odd students.
The students were released on bail later.After the latest confrontation between the institute’s administration and students — a result of the institute’s decision to assess unfinished film projects of students of the 2008 batch — the Information and Broadcasting Ministry announced a panel to review the situation in college.
A striking student said: “We are very curious to see with what agenda they (the officials) are coming with. We are clueless. The students’ body has not been told that the delegation is coming. …We are hearing everything from the media. We are still expecting a good dialogue.”Another student said, “We are open to talks. From day one we have been ready for a dialogue and finally the ministry has understood that we should sit across the table and discuss the core issues…I hope the officials come with an open mind and we are hoping a productive dialogue.”
Academic activities at FTII has come to a halt since students began their protest against Chauhan’s appointment — which, they claim, was politically coloured with no regard to the actor’s lack of credentials — since June 12 The Central Government and actor, however, have thus far steadfastly refused to heed to the students. The agitation has already seen several known names from the world of cinema —Bollywood as well as documentary makers among them— as well as politicians support it. Talks held on June 3 between protesters and the Central Government ended in a stalemate.
The institute has even threatened protesting students with suspension unless they called of their boycott and resumed classes.Chauhan is primarily known for his role as the righteous ‘Yudhisthir’ in BR Chopra’s popular television series of the 90s, ‘Mahabharat’. His list of movies includes ‘Jungle Love’; ‘Khuli Khidki’; and ‘Vasna’, all of which are considered B-grade.Students accuse of institute of resorting to various methods — including assessment of incomplete projects, which led to the latest row — to pressure students to stand down.The midnight arrest had been widely condemned as “pressure tactics”. —