FTII row: Hundred days later, a solution is so near, yet so far!

The Central government finds itself in a fix, as the students do not show any signs of backing down on the contentions.

September 21, 2015: The students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, have been on strike — against the appointment of actor Gajendra Chauhan, as the Chairman of the premier institute — for over one hundred days (100 days) now. Saturday, 19 September, marked the 100th day of the strike, and the 10th day of the indefinite hunger strike, of the students.

Largely ignored by the Union government over the past three months, barring an occasional sound byte from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, the strike saw the support of various artists, actors, directors, and other technicians, many of whom are alumni of the institute.

However, last week, the Ministry wrote to the students, inviting them for talks, a gesture which is being seen as the first step towards the resolution of the issue. The students, on their part, have written back, and agreed to the talks. However, no date was fixed for the meeting.

The appointment of Chauhan has been at the centre of the controversy, as students (and supporters across the film world) opine that he does not have the stature required to head the institution, which, in the past, saw legends including Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Girish Karnad as Chairmen.

The students, besides contesting Chauhan’s appointment, are demanding that a robust framework be developed for future appointments.

Meanwhile, one of the fiercest criticisms against the strike has been that those organizing it are mostly students who have stayed on in the institute for 7–8 years, failing to finish their course in time. Hence, they say, these students are diverting attention from the pressing issues plaguing the institute.

Recently, close to 200 National Film Award winning personalities wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee, seeking his intervention over the impasse.

The Central government finds itself in a fix, as the students do not show any signs of backing down on the contentions. If the government concedes, then it will be seen as a validation for the allegations of the Opposition and detractors, who claim that political appointments to institutions are being abused.

For now, it seems like the government would try to persuade the students to agree to a middle path — reduce Chauhan’s role to the designation of the Chairman of the governing council, where he would have little to do with the curriculum, and bring in an amicable face as the head of student and academic affairs.