After the midnight police crackdown on the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students, and the subsequent arrest of five agitators, the information and broadcasting ministry on Wednesday constituted a three-member team, headed by the Registrar of Newspapers in India, SM Khan, to assess the ground situation on campus.
Officials said the team comprising Khan and two other officers will visit FTII wherestudents are on strike over the appointment of actor Gajendra Chauhanas its chairman and other posts in the FTII society. “The team headed by Khan and comprising two more I&B Ministry officials will visit Pune tomorrow and give its report on the situation there,” official sources said.
On the intervening night of 18 and 19 August, the police entered the campus with a warrant for 15 students and arrested five. Accusing striking students of insulting behaviour, using cruel interrogation and causing mental torture, FTII director Prashant Pathrabe said he approached police as a ‘deterrent step’. “I was tortured, threatened, physically pushed around and subjected to disrespectful and insulting behaviour by about 40 odd students, who came to my office cabin and used cruel interrogation asking repeatedly why I ordered assessment of the incomplete film projects of the 2008 batch,” Pathrabe told news persons in the campus on Wednesday.
Later, student representatives set the record straight, calling a news conference in Delhi. They said the students had gone to the director with the faculty to ask for an academic council to be called over the assessment. They asked for the assessments to not be done in a surreptitious manner. According to these students, the director said he would reconsider his decision. That night the police entered the campus and roughed up students. The media was told that the director immediately addressed a news conference condemning police action, and categorically said he had not felt threatened by students.
The next day, however, the director and the registrar apparently disappeared from campus and at night the police surfaced with arrest warrants. The students said the registrar later said he knew the police would come but but had fallen asleep before that. Also, FTII has a rule that requires either the registrar or the director present for the arrest of any student, being their guardians on campus. “There were no women cops present either, which is why we refused to let girls named in the FIR go with the police.”
The arrested faced criminal charges of rioting, unlawful assembly among others. The bail for all 15 has been set at Rs 2 lakh, which they were told had to be given in 8 hours. By evening, however, the five were released on bail of Rs 50,000 each.
Parents of students also addressed the media in Delhi, soundly condemning the police action, asking the government repeatedly to find a solution through dialogue, and not ruin their children’s lives. “This government got its mandate from the youth, but they refuse to listen to them anymore. Why is that?” asked one parent.
Students and artists also condemned the government for putting pressure on the director to take this step. They said this would not break their spirit, and now there would be a call to take the strike to the national level, spreading it to all other institutes that were suffering from government interference.