Government refuses to saffron budge on Gajendra Chauhan’s appointment

New Delhi(dna): They came, made a hullabaloo, and finally met the minister – but, alas, had to leave disappointed.

Members of the Left students’ organisations protesting in front of the I&B ministry in New Delhi on Friday, against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of Film and Television Institute of India B B Yadav dna
Members of the Left students’ organisations protesting in front of the I&B ministry in New Delhi on Friday, against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of Film and Television Institute of India! B B Yadav photo

Friday afternoon’s talks between the FTII students, who are on an indefinite strike since June 12, and the information & broadcasting ministry mandarins, including minister Arun Jaitley, came to naught as the two sides failed to make any headway on the one issue that was the principal bone of contention – the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as chairman of the premier film school’s governing council.

“The minister gave us a patient hearing, and gave us assurances about the grand plans for FTII, including making it a Centre of National Excellence that he had announced earlier as well. But the core issue – that was not resolved,” said Beena Paul, an FTII alumnus who was part of the FTII delegation that met ministry officials in the capital.

The 10-member delegation included other eminent FTII alumni such as Girish Kasaravalli, Resool Pookutty, Fareeda Mehta, Paresh Kamdar, Dharam Gulati and Prateek Vats, besides three current students.

Does this mean that the strike will continue? That’s not decided yet.

According to Reema Kaur, a current student and part of the team that met Jaitley, “We can’t decide that just yet. We leave for Pune tomorrow (Saturday), where we’ll put the entire proceedings to the student body meeting. The decision on whether to continue with the strike or not will be taken there.”

Earlier in the afternoon, there was high drama as a crowd of nearly 200 students, some from FTII who’d travelled up from Pune, together with alumni in the city, and groups from local universities such as JNU and DU, and vocal union members, gathered to protest outside the gates of Shashtri Bhawan, where the offices of the I&B ministry are located, waving banners and shouting slogans – “Resist saffronisation in education,” “Chauhan go back.” But they were soon whisked off by the police, and detained at the nearby Parliament Street police station where they continued their protest. They were released in the evening.

The FTII students are protesting against the appointment of Chauhan, who they feel lacks the academic and cinematic credentials to lead India’s premier cinema-training institute. Over the last three weeks they have gathered suppose from colleges and universities all over the country, tying their cause with similar instances of government interference in the working of premier educational and research organisations such as IIT, censor board, ICHR, etc. They even ensured saturation media coverage by getting their alumni and Bollywood stars such as Kiran Rao, Piyush Mishra, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, et al to speak out in their favour. Today’s meeting was supposed to cap all those efforts, but to no avail.