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Row over FTII chairman: Govt agrees to talk to students

The students of the film institute have been protesting against Gajendra Chauhan's appointment for 17 days now

A graffiti by the protesting students of FTII Photo Credit: From The Fight Club Blog

Adrija Chatterjee New Delhi
After 17 days of stir at Film & Television Institute (FTII), Pune, over appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the institute’s chairman, the information & broadcasting (I&B) ministry on Monday invited students for a talk. 
 
The students have been protesting the appointment of Chauhan, a TV actor of the Mahabharat fame and a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member, fearing this could be an attempt to curb the institution’s independence.
 
There is little clarity on what transpired in these 17 days to compel the authorities, who had consistently been refusing to negotiate with students, to talk. But to put things in perspective, there has been a lot of activity online and offline to convey that the institute is not ready to accept the government’s decision this time.
 
During these days of protest, the walls of the institute, as well as social media platforms, have been smeared with taglines like #noFear and #FTIIPune. The students’ intent has been to air their resentment over what they call the ruling party’s partisan tactics. Solidarity letters from institutes and groups across the country have only strengthened the palpitating struggle at the premium film school of India.  Student associations from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Government Film and Television Institute, All India Students’ Association Kolkata, Jadavpur University, Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, and Thrissur Law College have extended their support to the FTII students. Besides, FTII alumni have also taken some steps to help the current students and publicised their views against Chauhan’s appointment.
 
On video-sharing website YouTube, There have been seen several videos of FTII alumni, as well as noted individuals from the film industry, expressing their views against the ministry’s decision. In one such video, you see Kundan Shah, the director of the cult movie Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, asking the government to consult the students before taking decisions regarding the institute. 
 
On the campus, protest meetings, conferences, marches and music has been organised over the past 17 days to ask the ministry to step back and give FTII its own space. Also, the Swarathma band has already performed in support of FTII students, and bands and singers like Indus Creed and Piyush Mishra have decided to do so.
 
FTII has seen agitation and protests earlier, too. In the past, students have wielded both their pens and instruments and called strikes to maintain the level of freedom deserving of the academic institution.
 
The current government, however, has drawn considerable criticism for some of its recent steps concerning the education sector. The IIM Bill, for instance, was attacked, with A M Naik, chairman of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, declaring the Bill seeks to reduce the IIMs to a “government department”.
 
Earlier, the attempt to replace German with Sanskrit as the compulsory language in schools was also seen by many as another attempt by the Centre to have an overarching influence in academia. 
 
Apart from Chauhan at FTII, the government has appointed some BJP leaders and sympathisers as chairmen of The Censor Board, Children’s Film Society and National Film Development Corporation of India. 
 
“To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream —Ay!!” this incomplete quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be seen carved across the FTII campus streets. And the ‘strike is on’ against the so-called “saffronisation” of education.

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First Published: Jun 29 2015 | 5:33 PM IST

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