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SRFTI stalemate deepens as students launch hunger strike against rustication

Protestors have been demanding that expulsion of 14 female students for refusing to vacate a hostel meant for males be revoked.

kolkata Updated: Oct 29, 2017 12:23 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
SRFTI,Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute,Film institute
Students of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Kolkata start a hunger strike since Saturday night demanding expulsion of 14 female hostellers be revoked. (HT Photo )

The stalemate in the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata is showing no signs of being resolved two weeks after the country’s second Centre-funded film school rusticated 14 female students.

Since Saturday night seven students have started a hunger strike in front of the institute’s administrative building demanding unconditional withdrawal of the punishment.

The director of the institute told HT that there would be no unconditional revocation of the rustication decision.

“There is no provision in the rules for unconditional withdrawal of the punishment. I would be rebuked by the ministry if I allow it,” SRFTI director Debamitra Mitra said.

On October 16, the authorities expelled 14 female students for their persistent refusal to vacate a hostel meant for males, triggering protests from students.

Describing the dictum of the authorities to the women to vacate the hostel as an infringement on their personal space, students launched an agitation demanding withdrawal of the decision.

“We had no other option but to resort to a relay hunger strike. We hope we won’t have to turn it into a fast until death to press for our demand. We are not going to allow the institute to function until the expulsions are unconditionally revoked,” said Debottam Basu, additional general secretary, SRFTI students’ association.

Mitra was gheraoed by the students till Friday midnight when she had to be taken to a hospital in an ambulance.

“I have been asked by the doctors to take rest and not to expose myself to further stress,” said Mitra.

She told HT that they would go to the campus on Monday, but whether they would enter the institute would depend on the circumstances.

“Under medical advice I can’t get trapped in the agitation,” she said.

“I have alerted the doctors empanelled with our institute that the students are on a hunger strike and medical professionals should visit them time to time,” she added.

Tension between the students and authorities had been rising over the past couple of months over segregation of hostel for men and women, a decision that a section of the students have vehemently opposed.

The authorities also filed police complaint against male students, who apparently in a show of solidarity with the women students had occupied rooms in the hostel meant for women.

Police have so far stayed outside the campus.

The director said that hostel segregation was prioritised in the wake of a number of complaints of sexual harassment over the past couple of years against faculty members and students.

Students, however, allege that the authorities raised the issue of segregating hostels to divert attention from other issues raised by them over the past one year.

The SRFTI started functioning in 1995.

First Published: Oct 29, 2017 12:23 IST