As it begins a fresh round of talks with the protesting FTII students in Mumbai on Tuesday, the government is unlikely to cede on Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment as the institute’s chief. Instead, it is likely to talk about bringing in “systemic changes” to improve the functioning of the institute.
“We want FTII to be an institute of excellence and are willing to talk about all things that will help us achieve that,” government sources said today. Asked about the government’s stand on the students’ protest against Chauhan’s appointment, sources indicated that the government was not likely to yield on this.
Sources further said that the government “was in no hurry” to take a final call on Chauhan’s appointment and was instead going to talk about the need to bring in “systemic changes”.
Having managed to get the students to call off their relay hunger strike and bring them back to the negotiating table, the government is now banking on this latest round of talks — to be headed by Joint Secretary (Films) K Sanjay Murthy from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and FTII Students’ Association president Harishankar Nachimuthu — to end the protest that entered its 109th day today.
Sources said there was a strong opinion within the government that rescinding Chauhan’s appointment would cause a huge “loss of face” and hence it was not even being considered.
When contacted, Nachimuthu said both sides had agreed to hold talks without any pre-conditions and a whole range of issues — ranging from putting the FTII Society in abeyance to bringing in more transparency in the process — were expected to be discussed. Asked whether the students were firm on their demand for Chauhan’s ouster, Nachimuthu said that “it’s not about one person but a whole range of issues”.
Meanwhile, the FTII students’ decision to hold a press conference in the capital just a day before the talks drew the I&B ministry’s ire. In a strongly worded communication to Nachimuthu, Murthy said “this kind of sideshow” was “not exactly the best way to create a conducive atmosphere for a dialogue”.
At the press conference, the students claimed that several leading academicians and professionals from Silicon Valley had expressed solidarity with them.
“The negotiations over any deadlock/ impasse require a certain commonality of resolve and and ecosystem of trust and faith. Histrionics, even of the most advanced aesthetic vintage, are not exactly the best recipe to find solution,” wrote Murthy.