Protesters at Pune’s prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) on Wednesday termed the midnight arrest of five students "undemocratic" and said that the crackdown would not affect their agitation.
“The midnight crackdown was sinister by its very design and execution. It was a step by the state to give a taste of its medicine to dissidents,” said Kislay Gonzalvez, a former student participating in the protests.
“If they think they can stop our protest by these undemocratic means, they are wrong. It will only increase our solidarity and strength,” he said.
Five students of the institute were arrested on Tuesday midnight from the campus, a day after they gheraoed the institute's director Prashant Pathrabe over "irrational and unjustified" assessment of some of the diploma projects. They have been arrested under charges of unlawful assembly, rioting, wrongful restraint and criminal intimidation. The FIR also names 10 other students, including three women.
Students said they found it "absurd" that even though the gherao had taken place late on Monday night, police did not go ahead with the arrests the next day.
“The procedure of the arrests was itself questionable. Why wasn’t the director or registrar present when the arrests were made? Is this the way to arrest students from an institution’s campus?” said Shardul Bharadwaj, a student who was present when the arrests were made.
“It was just another hideous tactic to terrorise the students, to make them understand, that look if you do not follow what we say, then we can also do this,” he added.
The students also found it "absurd" that director Pathrabe had gone ahead with the assesment of diploma projects of the 2008 batch, even after heads of departments wrote to him saying that it is not the right time to review the projects.
“The director had then verbally assured everyone that the assessment will be done at the right time. But now he says he is following the government’s directives. So it’s very clear who is behind all this,” Gonzalvez added.
Vikas Urs, secretary of the FTII Students' Association, was among those arrested. His friend Nachiket said the students’ body was trying to get the five out on bail as soon as possible.
The crackdown was the latest in the tussle between the students and the Narendra Modi government which started in early June after little-known film actor and BJP sympathiser Gajendra Chauhan was appointed as the institute's chairman.
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.
Apart from the protests at the Pune campus, the students had also held demonstrations in Delhi. Their agitation received the backing of a large number of eminent film personalities who said the institute deserves a chairman who is better qualified than Chauhan.
The writer tweets as @saha_abhi1990