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Students held me as hostage: FTII Director Prashant Pathrabe

The 69-day strike by students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) campus took a new turn after the police stormed the campus premises and arrested five of the agitators in the early hours of Wednesday — an act that evoked strong condemnation from leaders such as Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arwind Kejriwal.

The FIR named 15 students, including three girls, and charges of rioting and unlawful assembly, among others, were slapped on them.

According to the police, the arrested students, who were whisked away to the Deccan Gymkhana, have been charged under sections 147 (rioting), 143, 149 (unlawful assembly), 353 (obstructing public servant from discharging duty), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code.

The midnight crackdown follows a day after an angry group of students purportedly held FTII Director Prashant Pathrabe hostage in his cabin for several hours in protest against the latter’s decision to push through with a “controversial assessment” of the incomplete diploma projects of about 50 students belonging to the 2008 batch.

In a late afternoon press conference, Mr. Pathrabe confirmed that he was “ominously threatened” by the students, who barged into his cabin, shouting angry slogans and beating drums in a fracas which caused the glass door of Mr. Pathrabe’s office to come crashing down.

“I was in a state of shock as I was detained for almost eight to ten hours. I was verbally threatened by the students, some of whom jumped on my table demanding that I revoke my decision to assess the projects,” said a shaken Mr. Pathrabe. The Director reiterated that he had received orders from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting over the issue and that everyone had to follow them.

Meanwhile, police said they had been “ordered” to make the arrests as a group of concerned faculty members and students flocked at the police station in the morning.

Mr. Pathrabe’s move to push through the assessments has not gone down well with the faculty as well while the students’ have decried the move as a ‘witch-hunt’ on the Ministry’s part to put pressure on the FTII administration to break their strike against the controversial appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the new FTII chairman.

“The arrests have effectively taken the spotlight away from Mr. Chauhan’s stormy appointment and those of the four Sangh Parivar propagandists part of the Governing Council – the very reason for our agitation,” said Ranjit Nair, spokesman of the FTII Students’ Association (FSA).

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi slammed the Narendra Modi govt. for being responsible for the crackdown, tweeting that “students were not criminals who needed to be caught in a midnight crackdown.”

Likewise, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal came out in strong support of the protesting students, expressing shock at the events and even offering to provide a temporary space to the agitating students to hold their classes in the national capital.

“An internationally reputed institute being systematically destroyed by govt.’s wrong decisions... Run your classes here till Central govt. agrees.... If not, we’ll convert this place into full fledged institute and students can continue studying here,” said the Delhi Chief Minister in a string of tweets.

Speaking out strongly for the first time since the row over Mr. Chauhan’s appointment broke out, eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal, himself a former FTII Chairman, severely censured the police action.

“In an educational institution, there’s a Laxman Rekha and you don’t allow a third-party (police) to come in. You ought to be able to solve the problems between the institute and those who are fighting against it. This is ridiculous. It has never happened before and I am absolutely shocked at the fact that the police were invited into the institution to take students into custody.”

Meanwhile, a three-member Central team deputed by the I & B Ministry arrived on the premises on Wednesday to probe the events leading to Mr. Pathrabe’s ‘confinement’ and the arrests of the students by the Pune police.

Parents seek PM's intervention

Parents of the students, who were arrested in the early hours of Wednesday, demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention to resolve the imbroglio at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). They charged that FTII director Prashant Pathrabe was acting at the behest of the government and the arrest was a “deliberate attempt to instil fear in the students.”

“Our son Raju Biswas is innocent. When we spoke yesterday [Tuesday], he assured us that he was safe and fine. We are anxious ever since we heard about his arrest. We urge the government to enter into a dialogue with the students and come up with a solution,” said Raju’s parents.

Terming the development as causing concern, one of the parents, Smita Raman, said: “I salute the students for their peaceful agita-tion. This is the same youth who voted Narendra Modi to power, he should now look into the matter.”

Insisting that the 2008 batch was yet to finish its film projects, the students blamed the FTII authorities for the delay and termed the assessment invalid as there was an indefinite strike on.

FTII Limbo

Gajendra Chauhan, an actor-turned-politician, was appointed as the chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) on June 9, 2015. His appointment triggered an >indefinite strike by students of the institute on June 12.

Who is Chauhan?

Mr. Chauhan is best known as 'Yudhisthira' in the Mahabharata TV series aired on Doordarshan in 1988-90. He has been associated with BJP for over two decades but formally joined the party in 2004.

Why protest?

Students of FTII have questioned Mr. Chauhan's body of work and "creative credentials." The students doubt if Mr. Chauhan can fill the shoes of predecessors like R.K. Laxman, Syam Benegal, Girish Karnad and U.R. Ananthamurthy.

Political vendetta?

Students claim that Mr. Chauhan's appointment is an attempt of the ruling party to foist its right-wing agenda upon the Institute.


Besides, prominent film personalities, All India Students' Association (AISA), the Kolkata-based Satyajit Ray Film Institute, and students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are all coming out strongly in support of the striking students.

  • If they don't want you, they don't want you. Pushing for the chairmanship is getting you no where. Let self pride play a role and retire

    - >Rishi Kapoor

  • FTII needs to be in safe hands. Students need somebody who they can trust and look up to. It's their future which is at stake here.

    >- Rajkumar Rao

  • This is something we should be talking about and by this we will clearly know that it is a mistake and that he has no credentials...If I would have been in place of Chauhan and I would have seen that my fraternity does not want me, I would have withdrawn.

    >- Amol Palekar

  • Don't think what the students are asking for is illogical, don't think they are asking for the moon. They are just asking for a fair chance, a fair opportunity, correct faculty, correct syllabus.

    - Ranbir Kapoor

  • I have neither been approached by students nor by authorities. But being an alumnus of this institute to which I owe my film career, I am more than willing to step in and sort out matters if given the chance to do so.

    - >Shatrughan Sinha

Prominent chairmen

Anwar Jamal Kidwai
(1974 - 1977)

First chairman, founder of Mass Communication Research centre at Jamia Millia Islamia.

>R.K. Laxman
(1977- 1980)

Legendary cartoonist, Padma Bhushan, Vibhushan. Known for creating the character "Common Man".

> Shyam Benegal
(1981 - 1983)
(1989 - 1992)

Known for pioneering parallel cinema. Recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke Award among others.

> Mahesh Bhatt
(1995- 1998)

Award-winning director, screenwriter, producer in mainstream Hindi cinema.

>U.R. Ananthamurthy

Eminent author, Padma Bhushan. Pioneered Navya movement in Kannada language.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 3:54:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/ftii-students-arrested-for-holding-prashant-pathrabe-as-hostage/article7557751.ece

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