Striking Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) students were in for a shock when the police entered their campus in Pune in the middle of the night and arrested five students. The arrested students were later granted bail by a local court on Wednesday.
The arrested students have been charged with rioting and other offences in connection with the gherao of Prashant Pathrabe, the director of the insititute. The students had gheraoed Pathrabe on Monday evening to challenge his decision to go ahead with the assessment of the incomplete diploma projects of the 2008 batch. Students’ gherao had forced the director to remain in his cabin for over six hours.
The students of the premier Pune institute have been on a strike for the past 69 days. They have been protesting against the appointment of BJP member and TV actor Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of the institute. The students say Chauhan is not qualified enough to head such a prestigious insititute.
“FIRs have been filed against 15 students out of which five have been arrested,” DCP T Tushar Doshi told PTI.
The accused students have been charged under various sections of the IPC including 143, 147, 149, 323, 353 and 506. Some of these charges are non-bailable and are related to unlawful assembly, criminal intimidation and rioting (353). The students are also charged with vandalising the director’s office and damaging property.
The FIR was filed on a complaint by Pathrabe.
“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 said in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the students Pathrabe’s decision to conduct the assessment of the incomplete film projects was “unjust, unfair and unjustified” as it was without the approval of the academic council of FTII. Students claimed that Pathrabe’s decision was aimed at weakening the current protest.
The midnight arrest by the police has provoked sharp outrage from the film fraternity. Several veterans of the film industry took to twitter to criticise police’s action.
“Police arrive in the middle of the night at #FTII, arrest 40 students. So are they really anti-nationals?!Or are Police implementing orders,” Oscar winner Resul Pookutty lashed out on Twitter.
“ABSOLUTELY CONDEMNABLE!!! You can’t ARREST dissenting students…. #FTII,” wrote filmmaker Anubhav Sinha.
“There was a time #FTII was considered one of the best film schools in Asia and produced some brilliant talent. What happened?” tweeted renowned filmmaker Shekhar Kapur.
“Never seen a government fall so low, so quick. Family-packs of lies being sold as achievements, while freedom is crushed daily,” said music composer Vishal Dadlani.
Not just Bollywood veterans, even politicians attacked the Centre for the mess. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and CPM leader Brinda Karat tweeted to slam the government.
“Protesting #FTII students arrested in #midnightcrackdown. Our students are not criminals Modiji….Silence. Suspend. Arrest: ModiMantra for AcheDin”, Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.
“Am shocked to hear whats going on at FTII. An internationally reputed institute being systematically destroyed by govt’s wrong decisions,” said Kejriwal on twitter. He also offered to provide
the agitating students space for their classes in Delhi.
Brinda Karat said,””Defending the indefensible by arresting students at #FTII. Jadavpur reenacted in Pune. Shame! @narendramodi stop authoritarian action at #FTII. Release students and get cops off the campus.”
Meanwhile, a three-member team, headed by the Registrar of Newspapers in India SM Khan, has been constituted by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry to assess the ground situation in FTII, Pune. The team headed by Khan will also have other I&B ministry officials. The team is expected to visit FTII and submit a ground report.
So far, the government has refused to relent on the issue. Earlier, the I&B ministry had refused to hold further dialogue with the agitating students after the July 3 talks in Delhi failed. The students’ demand of Chauhan’s removal was given a cold shoulder by the officials in Delhi. The students, who have been boycotting classes since June, were asked to return.
(With inputs from PTI)