A three-member team of officials from the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry is set to visit the crisis-hit Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) on Thursday to find a solution to the 70-day-old strike by the students.
The team, headed by the registrar of newspapers in India S M Khan, will assess the ground situation in FTII and try to end the impasse, even as students ruled out any compromise on their main demand of removal of TV actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan's as chairman of the institute.
Students have also been protesting against the appointment of four of the governing council’s eight members under the ‘Persons of Eminence’ category, saying they were picked because of their proximity to the BJP.
"The team will comprise S M Khan, Anshul Sinha and S Nagnathan. They will study the prevailing situation on the campus and hold discussions with all concerned, including the students," FTII director Prashant Pathrabe told reporters.
The protest reached a flashpoint after five students were arrested in a midnight swoop on Tuesday after they allegedly confined the director Pathrabe to his chamber a day earlier.
Reports said the government was looking for an “honourable exit” from the controversy.“The government is open to debate. We are not struck upon anything,” The Indian Express quoted an unnamed I&B ministry official as saying.
Another report in the daily said I&B minister Arun Jaitley and the minister of state Rajyavardhan Rathore had a back-channel talk with the students to call off their strike. But the deal failed because the ministry did not want to give a written confirmation.
The students' protest that started by questioning the "credentials and vision" of Chauhan to lead the premier institute, took a different turn last week when Pathrabe announced his decision to conduct assessment of incomplete diploma film projects of the 2008 batch on "as it is where it is" basis.
According to the FTII Students' Association (FSA), the assessment as proposed by the director was also opposed by the faculty as it was "unjustified, irrational and unfair" with the project films devoid of editing and audio.
Addressing a press conference after his arrest and release on bail by a local court along with four others, FTII Students' Association (FSA) leader Vikas Urs said that conversely it should be the information and broadcasting ministry which needs to dilute its hard posture on the controversial appointment.
Asked about the students' stand on the visit by the high-level committee, he said, "we are ready and willing for any dialogue but we will not compromise on our demands."
FTII alumni criticise midnight arrests
Prominent film-makers and FTII alumni have criticised the midnight arrests.
“It is very unfortunate that students were arrested in this manner. The demands of the students are reasonable and they were showing remarkable restraint in their protests,” said Beena Paul, FTII alumnus and former artistic director of International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).
Documentray filmmaker Amlan Dutta said strikes were not new to FTII but the way the government is trying to tackle them is unforeseen.
“This is not the first time strikes are happening in FTII. When we were studying, we had also gone on strike .The attitude of the government has changed now,” said Dutta.
Cinematographer and filmmaker Rajeev Ravi criticised Pathrabe’s decision to go ahead with the assessment of diploma projects.
“The administration is responsible for this mess. In my time we used to finish our diploma on time. They have increased the number of courses and intake of students without increasing the number of faculty or improving the infrastructure,” Ravi said.
“We never imagined that such a thing will happen in FTII. I’m really concerned about the kids (FTII students),” he added.
(With inputs from Sundar Sethuraman)