The threat of a mass hunger strike by students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) announced on Monday, arises as much from the inevitable desperation stemming from three months of an agitation without any tangible success, as from a well-thought out strategy to put the pressure on the I&B Ministry when it seems to be considering some announcement to end the deadlock.
The government has sent out feelers, through leaked media reports, that it’s considering options to resolve the students’ protests over the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as President of FTII. It’s been over three weeks since the three-member committee sent by the I&B Ministry visited the campus and about a week since the committee submitted its report. Hence, an announcement from the Ministry is expected.
A group of students also think that stepping up the pressure by announcing a drastic and media-friendly measure like a hunger strike is necessary as the agitation has seen a trough in the last 15 days since the S M Khan-led I&B committee visited the institute on August 21.
“Since the committee had told us that they will be submitting the report within three days we had toned down the agitation and patiently waited for the report. Once the report is submitted, we thought, the Ministry will have no choice but to make some sort of announcement. However, to our dismay, it took 12 days to submit the report and the only response that it has elicited from the Ministry is some rumour-mongering which conveys that some sort of decision may ensue,” said a student leader.
In the hindsight, the students feel tricked by the bait of the committee and hence feel the need to step up the attack to force the ministry to do more than what it had offered in back channel talks about a month ago.
In last seven days two individuals associated with the institute have gone on the hunger strike, suo motu. While the first person – a student – broke his fast, the fast by a faculty member demanding ‘immediate resolution’ is into its third day and the administration hasn’t even blinked in response to this step.
The student body, on its part, had planned a hunger strike as the last measure when all other tactics failed. However, with two of its own supporters fasting “spontaneously” and since there’s uncertainty on how the second fast will end, the students – in a meeting held on Sunday night – decided to jump the gun and announce the hunger strike before it becomes redundant.
Through leaked media reports and failed back channel talks, the Ministry has conveyed to the students that it is ready to give marching orders to four FTII Society members (Anagha Ghaisas, Rahul Solapurakr, Narendra Pathak and Shailesh Gupta) but it cannot revoke Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment as the President. Instead, it proposed to make an imminent film personality of the students’ choice the Vice Chairman who will call the shots.
A majority of students are unhappy with this solution and believe that Chauhan’s head must roll. Monday’s announcement is a measure to achieve this goal.