Police arrested five students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) during a midnight crackdown on students accused of rioting and criminal intimidation and officials said more arrests were likely on Wednesday.
A police team arrived at the campus at around midnight after FTII director Prashant Pathrabe – who was ‘gheraoed’ by students protesting against the “irrational and unjustified” assessment of their incomplete diploma projects – filed a formal complaint on Tuesday.
Police picked up 15 students from the campus and hostel and took them to a nearby police station, where five of them were formally arrested. “An FIR has been filed against all those who have been brought here. We have arrested five of them," deputy police commissioner Tushar Doshi told Hindustan Times.
Doshi said on Wednesday that police are likely to make additional arrests. "We will wait for other students named in the FIR to surrender on their own. Otherwise we will arrest them," he said.
Police have named 30 students in the FIR, including three women who could not be arrested due to a Supreme Court ruling which bars police from arresting a woman after dusk.
The arrested students were charged with unlawful assembly, rioting, wrongful restraint and criminal intimidation. The FTII campus has been on the boil since the government appointed BJP member and little-known TV actor Gajendra Chauhan as the institute’s chairman in early June.
Students had ‘gheraoed’ Pathrabe on Monday to protest against the assessment of their diploma projects.
The arrested students were taken to hospital for a medical check-up on Wednesday morning and will be produced in court in the afternoon, police said.
The protesting students alleged that FTII registrar UC Bodke did not come to the institute despite several requests by students after police arrived at the campus at midnight.
“We went to the registrar's house to request him to be present at the campus when police were making arrests. The registrar, despite being our local guardian, refused to entertain our plea," said FTII student Swapnil Ninave.
A large number of students protested against the arrests on the campus and outside the Deccan police station.
During Monday’s protest, students had refused to leave unless Pathrabe gave a "rational" explanation for the assessment of incomplete films made by students of the 2008 batch, and police had to intervene to take him out of his office cabin.
The FTII Students' Association (FSA) alleged that the assessment was politically motivated and aimed at getting rid of about 50 students belonging to the 2008 batch on the grounds of "overstaying" at the institute due to incomplete projects.
Sources said the FTII administration was concerned that several students of the 2008 batch had yet to graduate. Officials said the projects of the 2008 batch were assessed according to norms.
There were also concerns over fresh batches being affected because of previous batches staying in the hostel. Officials said while there had been zero-admission years, they had not served the purpose of resolving problems at the FTII.
Meanwhile, there are reports that officials from the information and broadcasting ministry are likely to visit the campus in the next few days to take stock of the situation following the strike by students.
After the failure of talks held with the students' body in Delhi on July 3, ministry officials made it clear that no further dialogue will be held on students' demands until they go back to classes, which have been closed since June 12.
Academic activity in FTII continues to be at a standstill as protesting students are firm on their demand for the removal of Chauhan as chairman. They allege Chauhan lacks credentials and vision to head the institute. Several Bollywood celebrities have joined the list of people arguing that Chauhan does not deserve to hold the post of chairman.
A major controversy erupted after Chauhan, best known for portraying Yudhisthir in the TV serial Mahabharat, was selected as chairman of the FTII society. Chauhan had recently joined the BJP and is a special invitee for the party's national executive council.
(With inputs from agencies)