By Uzma Shamim:
The controversies around The Film and Television Institute of India, Pune just refuse to die down. The strike which started on the 12th of June has culminated into a full blown battle between the government and the students. Students have been protesting against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of the renowned institute for more than 72 days now. According to them, Chauhan lacks the credentials for the post of the Chairman. The students, also, believe that Chauhan was appointed by virtue of his affiliation to the BJP. Another contentious issue is the appointment of the members of the FTII Society, who are BJP cronies.
The recent furore however is on another aspect of the institute. It is rooted in the decision of the administration to start with the formal assessment of incomplete Diploma projects of the 2008 batch. On 17th August, the students surrounded Director, Prashant Pathrabe’s office for nearly six hours after which the Police was called in and the Gherao was lifted. This was followed by a sudden intervention by the police on Tuesday, 18th August, night when around 15 students were taken to the Deccan Gymkhana Police Station on multiple charges. Out of the 15, against whom the warrant was issued, three are women and five have been taken into police custody on the grounds of unlawful assembly, rioting, wrongful restraint and criminal intimidation. While the students are out on bail, the focus has now shifted to the 2008 batch. The students maintain that only 50 percent of students in the 2008 batch have completed their projects due to the ongoing unstable dynamics of the Institute and hence it would be unfair and unjustified to grade students on the basis of these projects. The faculty had also asked the administration to stall the assessment till the strike ends. They classify this move by the administration as a politically motivated one. The real agenda behind this assessment, as per the students, is to ouster around 50 students from the Institute which would considerably abate the continuing strike. On the other hand the administration maintains that the assessment is being carried out as per norms and any delay would create trouble in admitting a fresh batch.
In the clash between the students and the administration, seen as a pawns in the hands of the government by the students, the incongruity of the arrests made by the police stands out. What compelled the police to initiate the crackdown on students in the middle of the night? As a protest against the sudden arrests made by the police, Arvind Kejriwal has offered the students at FTII a temporary space to run their classes until their demands are met. “My offer to FTII students – Delhi government can provide you temporary space in Delhi. Run your classes here till central government agrees,” he said. The government has not only refused to cancel the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman but a meeting between Arun Jaitley and a student-alumni delegation failed to arrive at an amicable solution.
The 3 member I&B ministry team that visited the campus on Friday, met the administration, faculty and students and the result gives some hope that a solution is not far ahead. However the question that resonates the loudest between the mayhem is with politics intervening in academics, will the resolution, if found, be fair?
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