The NDA government is willing to keep FTII chairperson Gajendra Chauhan away from the Pune-based premier film institute’s academic affairs to end a students’ agitation against the actor’s contentious appointment to the key post, sources said.
More than a hundred students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) supported by several leading names from the entertainment industry have been protesting the selection, saying Chauhan lacks the “stature and vision” to head the school and has been appointed because of his political leanings.
HT has learnt that 49 students who joined the institute for a three-year course in 2008 recently refused to allow the faculty to “assess” them so they could be awarded diplomas.
In a bid to end the deadlock, the government told a delegation of students that Chauhan could continue to be chairperson of the institute’s governing council that looks after infrastructure and policy matters.
Noted filmmaker Raju Hirani could replace him as head of the council responsible for decisions on academics, including the ongoing revision of syllabus.
It was seen as a climbdown for the BJP-led government, which has rejected allegations of Chauhan’s links with the RSS and his lack of credentials to head the film school. The students who came to Delhi to talk to information and broadcasting ministry authorities accepted the government’s offer only to reject it after returning to Pune.
A visit of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to the FTII campus in support of protesting students has now spurred the government to harden its stance. “At one point of time, Chauhan had even conveyed his willingness to resign to end the impasse but that is out of the question. The Congress has totally politicised the issue,” said a ministry source.
Actor-turned-BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha said at FTII on Friday that while anyone can visit the institute and show concern, Gandhi’s entry politicised the matter.
A senior FTII official said the students’ decision to invite Gandhi to step up pressure on the government was uncalled for and it complicated things. Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan, however, rejected these suggestions and said the Amethi MP had gone there on the invitation of students.
“It was the government that chose a political appointee for the post. They politicised it. To us, it’s about legitimate aspirations of the youth,” he said. Sources said the government’s main concern was to bring things “in order” and that those interested in status quo had turned Chauhan into “an excuse” to stall any such move.
FTII students don’t pay any fee after the completion of three years but can avail all facilities for free until they complete their projects. The government spends about Rs 12 lakh per student every year.
According to rules framed by the general council last year, if a student does not complete the project in three years, his or her work could be assessed on an as-is-where-is basis by the faculty to award diplomas. But 49 of the protesting students are resisting this.
“The move to asses our projects on as-is-where-is basis is aimed at getting rid of us. This way the government wants to weaken our strike,” said 2008-batch student Ajayan Amey Gore, blaming inadequate infrastructure and faculty for the delay.