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FTII row: Before crackdown, a failed ‘secret deal’

Sources said that the ministry’s refusal to make any written promise and to give a time-frame led to the failure of talks.

Written by Atikh Rashid | Pune |
Updated: August 20, 2015 10:42:15 am
FTII logjam, FTII row, I&B Ministry, Arun Jaitley, Rajyavardhan Rathore, FTII society, S Naganathan, Prashant Pathrabe, india news, news A sign outside the FTTI campus, in Pune. (Source: Express photo by Arul Horizon)

In an attempt to strike a deal through backchannel talks, I&B Minister Arun Jaitely and Minister of State (I&B) Rajyavardhan Rathore had offered to give marching orders to three contentious appointees on the FTII society and appointing a ‘vice-chairman’ of students’ choice who will be the de facto chief of the society if the students withdrew the ongoing agitation.

However, the deal failed to come through after the students demanding that the Ministry provided this in writing detailing about the ‘when and how’. The Ministry refused to make any written promise and to give a time frame leading to failure of this “secret deal”.

The offer was made on July 25 when the two students representatives accompanied by film makers and FTII alumni Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Rajkumar Hirani held a series of meetings in New Delhi. This delegation met Bimal Jhulka, Secretary, I&B; S Naganathan, Joint Secretary Rathore and Jaitely.

Also read: As FTII headache grows, Government looks at ‘honourable exit’

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FTII students body president Harishankar Nachimuthu and Cinematography student Vikas Urs who had travelled to Delhi for this meeting said that the ministers and the secretaries had requested the delegation not to speak about the meeting and the offer made by them at a public forum or media. FTII Director Prashant Pathrabe also attended the first meeting which lasted for about three hours.

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“We initially met Bimal Julka and S Nagnathan followed by a meeting with MoS Rajyavardhan Rathore. We were told us that the Ministry was ready to remove Anagha Ghaisas, Narendra Pathak and Rahul Solapurkar who have been appointed as members on the FTII society. They, however, conveyed us that they won’t be able to revoke Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment. They instead offered us a solution in which a vice-chairman of students’ choice will be appointed who will be taking all the decision pertaining to academics with Chauhan being rendered as a nominal chief. We asked them about the fate of the three members namely Jahnu Barua, Pallavi Joshi and Santosh Sivan who have resigned from the Society. They told us that they can’t be asked to return. Instead, they told us that we will get an opportunity to nominate six new faces of our choice on the society as members – three for those who will be removed and three to replace those who have resigned,” said Urs. He said that all four members of the delegation met Jaitely at his residence the same day. He also reiterated the offer.

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The student representatives said that they will have to travel back to Pune to to hold deliberations with other students before they convey their response.

Interview: FTII midnight arrests: Shocked, students are not criminals, says Shyam Benegal

“We held a General Body meeting of the students association after returning and discussed this offer. We were happy about the offer to remove Ghaisas, Pathak and Solapurkar. However, the students were skeptical about the appointment of a vice-chairman who will be de facto chief. Given our past experience, we could not trust this until we got any written promise about it. Hence, on July 31 we sent an email to Mr Julka and Naganathan detailing a six point response which asked for a written promise about all the aspects of the offer, ammendment of the FTII Society constitution to give more power to the post of vice-chairman and a time-frame to implement all the promises. The students also wanted Barua, Joshi and Sivan to be reinstated to the Society as we felt that they had sacrificed the post in solidarity of our protest,” said Urs.

The Ministry, however, did not give any response to this letter. On August 3, the students staged a protest march in Delhi. On August 6, they again met Julka and Naganathan but they said that it was ‘impossible’ to either give any written promise or provide a time frame for the implementation of the promises.

“The tone used by Julka and Naganathan in the two meetings was very different. When we had Chopra and Hirani with us they were cordial and forthcoming. In the second meeting, when we were only a bunch of students, they were arrogant and asked us to whatever we wished to,” said Urs.

While the Ministry officials refused to comment on this story, in a meeting with students on Monday- attended by The Indian Express – Director Pathrabe referred to this ‘secret meeting’ attended by him repeatedly saying the students were not willing to resolve the issue.

“The Ministry had a dialogue with you thrice. Don’t say they did not talk to you? You did not agree to their offer,” he told the students. When asked why the Ministry refused to provide a time frame for reconstitution of the Society and give the promise in writing, Pathrabe responded, “That’s how the dialogue takes place.”

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