FTII strike: I&B Ministry offers to hold discussions with students over Gajendra Singh row

New Delhi(PTI): As the strike by FTII students entered the fifth day, the Information and Broadcasting ministry on Tuesday offered to discuss “all relevant issues” after they stuck to their demand for revoking the appointment of TV actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of its governing council.

The protests, meanwhile, spread to more places with students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and activists of All India Students’ Association (AISA) in Delhi expressing their solidarity while those from Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata, (SRFTI) staged protests in their campus.

The I and B Ministry in its first response to the strike urged the students association of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) to “restore normalcy” and restart academic exercises.

FTII Director DJ Narain told reporters that the ministry’s communication addressed to association president Harishankar Nachimuthu, however, stated that it was within the “right of the government to make appointments but it was also open to discuss all issues with the students.” The association that is spearheading the stir said it will discuss the offer of talks and then give its response to the ministry.

Chauhan, who is best known for his portrayal of Yudhisthir in the mega TV serial “Mahabharat”, claimed there was a “conspiracy” behind the multiple protests.

He said the protest is not centred at one place, and that it is happening in different locations.

“It is a conspiracy of some individual, who has a personal issue here. This matter is being politicised.” Chauhan requested the striking students to stay away from this politics as it will not benefit them.

Speaking about his credentials to be appointed to the FTII post, Chauhan said, “I have been interviewed by the I&B ministry multiple times before I was put on this post. It was not an overnight decision by anyone.”

Chauhan, who is affiliated to the BJP, also said that ideology will be kept outside the gates of FTII. Nearly 150 students of FTII boycotted classes and continued their protest on the campus raising slogans against Chauhan and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and put up posters on walls and buildings in the premises.

The students’ body claimed support of more filmmakers and artistes, including Govind Nihalani, Rakesh Sharma, Subhash Ghai, Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt.

Rakesh Sharma, a filmmaker, in a statement said, “First the IITs, now FTII and IIMs – this seems to be a pattern to meddle with centres of excellence to turn them into partly-controlled bastions of mediocrity. We must all protest visibly and vocally. This appointment has shocked everyone in the Indian film fraternity. Mr Jaitley would be wise to rescind it as soon as possible.”