Despite some indications earlier in the day that they might withdraw their four-and-a-half-month-old strike in the near future, students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) decided against it at their general body meeting held on Friday night.
After the meeting between a delegation of FTII students with the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Rajyavaradhan Rathore in Delhi earlier this week, there was some talk on the campus of the students going back to classes while continuing their protest through other means.
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At the meeting held Friday night to gauge the mood of the students, a majority of students supported continuation of the strike “for the time being”. They also decided to pressure the government for withdrawal of the offences registered by institute’s director Prashant Pathrabe against students. The students also decided to “corner” the government by using “various means” at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) to be held in Goa next month.
The students had gone on an “indefinite strike” on June 11 in protest against the appointment of television actor Gajendra Chauhan as the president of the institute’s Society and chairman of its Governing Council. They were also opposed to four other “political” appointees who, they alleged, lacked the artistic and cinematic expertise to secure a place in the FTII Society.
The strike, which generated wide debate and gathered support from various quarters, forced the government to open a dialogue with the students. Although the two parties held as many as eight meetings, there could not arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.
According to the students, the latest meeting with Rathore in New Delhi held on October 20 convinced many among them of “callous nature of the government”.
A delegation of seven students, which had travelled to New Delhi for the meet with Rathore, returned completely “dejected” by what they described as government’s attitude towards the premier film institute and the questions raised by the students about the way it’s run.
“The Minister of State, who is in-charge of FTII affairs, also seemed helpless in taking any corrective steps. Like any other group of students, we too are eager to go back to classes and complete our courses at the earliest. But we would continue to raise the relevant issues in future and oppose the present appointments at various fora,” said a student on the sidelines of the GBM.
Students have also decided to corner the I&B Ministry at the IFFI to be held next month.
They claimed they were in touch with many filmmakers and individuals who play an active role in organising IFFI. Students were also planning to get in touch with filmmakers whose films will be chosen to be showcased at the festival and try and persuade them to boycott the festival in solidarity with the students.
“In the course of the last four-and-a-half months, almost every prominent and independent filmmaker, actor or producer has expressed solidarity with us and opposed the appointments made by the government. Although we are yet to get the IFFI itinerary, it wouldn’t be hard for us to get in touch with filmmakers whose films get selected or whom the Ministry asks to play some role or give out a speech to boycott the festival,” said a student.
Students face arrests
Twelve FTII students who were charged with forcibly confining the institute’s director, Prashant Pathrabe, and mentally torturing him, are facing arrests after they failed to appeal against a Pune sessions court’s order which rejected their anticipatory bail applications. The sessions judge had given the students a eight-day window to appeal against his order in the higher court while refusing anticipatory bail to them.
“Due to some financial issues, the process to appeal in the High Court could not be done in time. We will file the appeal by Monday,” said a student involved in the process.
Student representatives who participated in the meeting held with Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said the Ministry was non-committal about withdrawing the complaint. “Rathore told us he would stand with us and take a decision after learning about the incident in detail,” said the student.