The contentious Film and Television Institute of India Society headed by actor Gajendra Chauhan is set to hold its first meeting at the institute campus on Thursday, almost six months after its reconstitution triggered protests and strike by students that lasted over four months.
With the institute anticipating trouble from the students during the meeting, the police have issued notices to 17 students asking them to refrain from any act of protest.
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The FTII Society, appointed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B) on June 9, 2015, with Chauhan as its head, failed to assume charge for months as the students and sections of the FTII alumni and film fraternity fiercely opposed the appointments. The students went on a strike, stalling academic activities for 139 days.
Since the strike ended on October 29, the campus has remained more or less peaceful with students returning to classes and project work. However, the institute was abuzz again on Wednesday with mediapersons, police and institute officials preparing for the meeting.
On Wednesday evening, the Deccan Police issued notices to 17 students who were earlier booked for “forcibly confining” FTII Director Prashant Pathrabe on August 16, warning them of strict action if they disturbed “peace at the campus” by any means.
“You were involved in the strike and protest over the issue of appointment of FTII chairman in the past… On January 7 and 8, Chauhan and members of FTII Society will visit the campus. During this, you are advised not to disturb peace at the campus… If you fail to comply with this notice, action will be taken against you under section 188 of Indian Penal Code,” the notice reads.
The students said they still didn’t accept Chauhan and others and would continue to protest their appointments. “Although we withdrew our strike in October, we never accepted appointments of mediocre people on the FTII Society. We continue to oppose them and there will be a protest tomorrow. Definitely!,” said Vikas Urs, a final-year cinematography student. He, however, refused to elaborate on the nature of protest.
Chauhan urged the students to instead focus on making up for the academic loss they have suffered. He said that after taking over as the Chairman of Governing Council, he would go through the files of complaint registered against the students and try to take a “positive decision” towards resolving the issue.
“There’s no benefit in protesting. Let’s not do it. Let’s instead focus on positive things which will help us build the institute and our future. This is my appeal for students. Once I take over, I will work for their benefit. I will also go through the files of complaints against students and try to take a positive decision to resolve the situation,” he said.
Narendra Pathak, former president of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and a member of FTII society, said he would focus on streamlining the academic schedule. “This zero-year drama has to be stopped. We can’t afford it when there are so many who want to get in the institute,” he said.
No to cow dung on campus
The institute administration’s efforts to pre-empt any protest attempt by FTII students seems to be on an overdrive. On Tuesday, one of the students had requested a conservancy staffer to procure some cow-dung from outside the campus which he wanted to use to plant an orchid near his hostel room. However, the security machinery took strong notice of this and made sure it didn’t enter the gates of the institute fearing it could be used to, well, throw at someone.
“I had gone to Nagaland for a film shoot a few days ago. I brought a couple of Orchid plants which I wanted to grow at the hostel. It’s not rare for students to plant trees. I requested a housekeeping staffer to help me by procuring some cow-dung to fertilise the soil. However, the security officer stopped the staffer when he was bringing the dung and made him throw it away. They didn’t stop here. The housekeeping in-charge too was scolded for acting hand in glove with students,” Gyan Gaurav, an audiography student said. An official said it was done only as a “precautionary measure”.