New Delhi: The 140-day-old strike by the students of the Film and Television Institute of India to protest the appointment of actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as its chairman ended on Wednesday. “We will go back to our classes, but the protest will continue in a democratic manner,” a representative of the students told reporters.
The strike at India’s premier film institute was called off after five rounds of talks between the agitating students and the government failed. The last meeting of the students took place on October 20, in which they had met Information and Broadcasting Minister RS Rathore.
Chauhan is best known only for his role as Yudhisthir in BR Chopra’s TV series Mahabharat, aired on Doordarshan between 1988-90. He has done small roles in nondescript TV soaps and forgettable films. He has also been associated with the BJP for several years and had actively campaigned for the party during the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
In July, well-known filmmaker Jahnu Barua, cinematographer Santosh Sivan and actor Pallavi Joshi quit the 12-member governing council of the FTII, expressing unhappiness over the government’s handling of the crisis. A number of filmmakers and artists had come out openly in support of the students, accusing the government of “saffronising” FTII.
The students are also demanding that the FTII society be dissolved and search committees be set up with a transparent process in place to look into the appointments of the chairperson and members. They are also demanding that FTII be given the status of a premium national institute like the IIT and the IIM and that no bureaucrat should be appointed as FTII director.
Chauhan, whose credentials have been questioned by the students and alumni of the FTII, is yet to attend office since his appointment, which some claim was done before the Narendra Modi government took over in May last year. According to a statement shared by Right to Information (RTI) activist Anil Galgali, Chauhan was appointed as the chairman on June 9 this year, but the RTI reply states his appointment date as March 4, 2014.
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