FTII strike to continue, students await further talks

Mumbai: A meeting held here between the striking FTII students and officials of the ministry of information and broadcasting on Tuesday on the simmering row over the appointment of a BJP functionary as the chairman of the premier film school remained inconclusive. While further talks have been guaranteed, the strike will also continue.

Another meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, it was decided on the 110th day of the strike, when over 250 students began to protest actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment as chairman of the Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).

“The ministry (representatives) will come back on Thursday to further discuss on this issue. The government has given no assurance and neither have the students done so. The talks are still on. The strike is still on,” FTII Students’ Association president Harishankar Nachimuthu told the media here post the meeting.

“There is no difference (progress) between (since) the last meeting and today’s meeting,” Nachimuthu said, adding the ministry officials “heard out the concerns in more detail”.

He also hoped that a “decision can be arrived at on Thursday”.

Meanwhile, informed sources told IANS that to placate protesting students, the government is planning to install a co-chairperson of the institute, instead of caving in to the demand to remove Chauhan from the top post.

The ministry is planning to propose a co-chairperson of the institute who would be “acceptable” to the students. In another measure, the government is also planning to remove around five members from the governing council against whom the students had strong objections.

“Chauhan will remain. We are considering these measures for the students,” a source said while declining to be named.

A three-member committee the I&B ministry constituted for examining the students’ grievances, headed by S.M. Khan, registrar of newspapers of India, had earlier made a similar proposal.

On the students’ end, they are garnering greater support for their cause. On Monday, they presented to the ministry a list of signatories of national and international repute, including well known American philosopher and political commentator Noam Chomsky.

In July, filmmaker Jahnu Barua, cinematographer Santosh Sivan and actor Pallavi Joshi quit the 12-member governing council of the FTII, expressing unhappiness over the government’s handling of the crisis.

The students are also demanding that the FTII society be dissolved and search committees be set up with a transparent process in place to look into the appointments of the chairperson and members. They are also demanding that FTII be given the status of a premium national institute like the IITs and the IIMs and that no bureaucrat should be appointed as FTII director.

Among the eminent personalities who have served as chairpersons of the institute earlier are Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mahesh Bhatt and Girish Karnad.