A group of students from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), who have been protesting for the last five days against the eviction of a final year student over a ‘disciplinary matter’, have urged the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry to intervene in the issue. The students have also accused the administration of “targeting” students who raise issues pertaining to academic management and the lack of resources and trained faculty members at the institute.
Srinivas Rao Taramala (27) and his batchmate from art direction and production design (ADPD) department, Manoj Kumar, were issued suspension notices on December 21 last year by the then dean Amit Tyagi for “misbehaving with the head of the ADPD department”, Vikram Verma, and for “showing no remorse for the act”. FTII authorities said the students had been suspended from all academic activities, including classes, practical training, workshops and exercises. Rao has said the alleged argument with the professor had taken place over issues about availability of equipment and therefore there was nothing to apologise about.
Three weeks after the notice, Kumar had gone “missing” from the institute and could not be traced for six days, before he was found at his aunt’s residence in Uttar Pradesh.
On February 15, FTII administration evicted Rao from the hostel, in accordance with the suspension order. Rao spent the night outside the FTII gate, where other students joined him in the protest.
On Monday evening, the FTII students’ body sent a letter to the secretary, I&B, and joint secretary (films), alleging that the institute’s administration was trying to intimidate the protesting students.
Aadith V Sathvin, president of the FTII students’ body, said it was clear that Rao was being punished not for the alleged misbehaviour, but because he had questioned the administrative and academic mismanagement.
“He has filed several RTIs seeking information about the way the ADPD department is being run. This seems to have irked the administration, which has taken disproportionately strict action against Srinivas,” Sathvin told The Indian Express.
“The present administration is targeting all those who are questioning the issues in the new syllabus, inadequate equipment and corruption in the contracts given for renting equipment from outside. Those who raise these issues receive notices from the proctor or the director over trivial issues,” said Sathvin.
In the letter written to the I&B Ministry, the students’ body has also alleged that Indian Information Service (IIS) officer Thumma Vijay Kumar Reddy, who serves as additional director with the I&B’s Hyderabad office, called up Rao’s Hyderabad-based guardian in an “attempt to intimidate him into pressurising the student to withdraw the protest”. The students have provided the audio recording of the purported call.
“We want a clarification on why an IIS officer, who is serving at a different office, is interrogating a student’s guardian and trying to intimidate him… the student community is feeling unsafe by the abuse of bureaucratic power by the FTII administration,” wrote the students’ body. Neither Reddy nor FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola responded to the queries on the issue posed by The Indian Express.