FTII Mahabharata: It's not over yet

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Bengaluru, Jan 9: There was an uncanny lull at the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, after the long-drawn protests by students came to an end some time ago.

The calm, however, was broken once again on Thursday (January 7) when the students and the police clashed.

FTII row: Protests to continue?

This happened after the aspiring filmmakers had left their classrooms to express their displeasure in a non-violent manner against Gajendra Chauhan, who finally took charge as the FTII chairman on Thursday.

Violence used on non-violent protestors

Some of the video footages gathered from the spot clearly show the students staging non-violent protests. It was the police which used canes to disperse the slogan-shouting protestors, alleged a few students.

Read More: Gajendra Chauhan takes charge as FTII chairman; 40 protesters held

Even female students were not spared. Several women students were allegedly manhandled by the police. Around 25 students were forcibly packed in a police van and detained till evening.

Heavy deployment of security personnel - riot control team and State Reserve Police Force (SRPF)-at the campus gave a fair indication that the government was in no mood to handle the students' protests with kid gloves.

The protesting students were seen shouting slogans like 'Go back Chauhan' and 'Chauhan Murdabad'.

"We were lathi-charged for trying to enter our own campus gate," student leader Reema Kaur told media. While police claimed the students' protest was violent, students insisted it was not so.

A seven-month-long battle

Chauhan's appointment as the FTII chairman in June 2015 triggered unprecedented protests by students.

Several celebrated alumni questioned his stature and vision to head the reputed film school that has produced some of the finest talents. Chauhan's claim to fame was the role of Yudhishthira, which he portrayed in India's most-popular television series, Mahabharata.

The critics of the BJP leader say he was given the prestigious post as a gift for campaigning for Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2014 General Elections.

The students launched an indefinite strike on June 12 last year against Chauhan, but withdrew it in October after 139 days.

Chauhan holds out olive branch to protesting students

On his first day on the campus, Chauhan attended meetings with members of the FTII Society and the Governing Council. Chauhan told the media that he was willing to address the demands of the protesting students.

"I really wanted to meet the students of the institute. I am willing to talk to protesting students any time and listen to their grievances," Chauhan told.

Regarding protesting students, Chauhan said, "Staging a protest is a democratic right. Taking action on them is not under our jurisdictions, it is for police to look into the matter."
"I came here to fulfil my responsibilities and the meeting has been very fruitful and it has been conducted with lot of positive attitude," he said.

Why Chauhan never meets the students?

Last year, when the protests were at its peak, we saw how Chauhan used television channels to pass on his message to the students.

However, on the ground no such effort was made by him or by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to have a healthy dialogue. Now, also he spoke to media, but did not make the effort to address the students directly, even when he was on the campus.

Unless the students are addressed directly by the decision-makers (government), the epic battle seems far from over.

OneIndia News

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