Protesting FTII students seek Rahul Gandhi’s intervention

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Students of FTII demanding removal of small screen actor Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of the institute have approached Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, seeking his intervention to check the “assault on institutions of higher learning”. Sources in Congress said that the students have invited Gandhi to come to Pune and support their cause. 250 FTII students are on strike against Chouhan’s appointment and are demanding the formation a committee which will make the rules for the FTII society. A number of filmmakers have also resigned as members of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) Society expressing their solidarity with the students. Hemant Yes

Students have continued their strike for almost 40 days, boycotting academic work after failure of their talks with I and B minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi on July 3. In a letter to Gandhi, the President of FTII Students Association Harishankar Nachimuthu said the appointment of Chouhan has raised question over the process of appointments in the institute and sought his intervention to resolve the “crisis” in the FTII, the sources said. FTII students’ association (FSA) has declared that the strike will continue till their main demand for removal of Chauhan–who they allege lacks vision and stature to head FTII–and reconstitution of the FTII Society is accepted. In the letter to Gandhi, Nachimuthu is also learnt to have requested Gandhi to support them and take up the issue of FTII like he had taken up the issue of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras. After agitation and a political controversy, the ban on the Dalit students body Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) was finally revoked. Gandhi had then attacked the NDA government over “centralisation” of power and de-recognition of the student group in IIT Madras and asserted that his party will always stand against injustice whether done on Dalits, tribals, women or people from any religion. IIT Madras had earlier de-recognised the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle over an anonymous complaint to the HRD ministry that it was trying to spread hatred towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies by distributing provocative pamphlets and posters in the campus, raking up a controversy. Agitating FTII students have been maintaining that the person who heads FTII should be one who understands the nature of this place in terms of academics and vision, what it stands for and should not have a political background. Students, drawn from different parts of the country and pursuing various film-related courses, have held that Chauhan, lacks “stature

and vision” to head the institute, which has produced many leading personalities of Indian cinema. Chauhan’s association with the BJP has also been an issue with the students expressing reservations over his ideological orientation which, they say, could have a bearing on the FTII’s ethos of plurality of thoughts. Chauhan, known for his portrayal as ‘Yudhishthir’ in popular TV serial Mahabharat, had earlier said it was premature on part of the students to oppose his appointment even before he took charge and proved his credentials for the job. The government had cold-shouldered their demand for removal of Chauhan as Chairman of the Governing Council of the institute. While welcoming the ministry’s assurance of upgrading the institute, the FTII Students’ Association has declared that the strike will continue till their demand is accepted.

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