PUNE — Students of the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India stepped up their protests on Saturday against the appointment of television actor Gajendra Chauhan, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, as the new chairman of the FTII governing council by boycotting classes and shutting down administrative offices on the campus.
In tweets posted by various media organisations, the students of FTII were seen raising slogans and holding up posters. A billboard at the gate of the institute urged Chauhan to "resign and leave". Meanwhile Chauhan appealed to the students to judge him based on his work and not by his politicial affiliations.
EXCLUSIVE: I have 35 years of experience. I request students to give me a chance & judge me based on my work: FTII Chairman Gajendra Chauhan— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) June 13, 2015
#BREAKING EXCLUSIVE: I am surprised with reports of protests being held against me: Gajendra Chauhan— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) June 13, 2015
PTI reported that about 150 students pursuing various courses at the institute went on a flash strike yesterday and said that they would continue their protest. The students body alleged that it was purely out of consideration of his affiliation with BJP that Chauhan was chosen for the key post.
"A person who has an official affiliation with the ruling-BJP and who lacks the vision and stature of the past chairpersons in film-making, has put a question mark on the process of selection for the post earlier held by eminent people like Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal and Adoor Gopalkrishnan," Harikrishnan Nachimuthu, who heads the FTII students' association, told PTI.
Pune : We want a person who understands the issues&culture of FTII- N Muthiah,Student protesting against Gajendra Chauhan's appointment— ANI (@ANI_news) June 13, 2015
Yes its true that I am a BJP member but that is not the reason for my appointment as FTII President.Its about capability-Gajendra Chauhan— ANI (@ANI_news) June 13, 2015
Chauhan, who played the role of Yudhishthira in television serial 'Mahabharata', has been a member of the BJP over two decades, the student leaders said.
FTII director D Narayanan told PTI that the institute authorities have opened the channels for dialogue with the students. "We are having a dialogue with the students to find a way out amicably".
A final year student pursuing course in film direction said Chauhan lacked the "experience and stature and quality" of his predecessors to merit his new posting, which is "politically coloured". Meanwhile, the students' association has decided to send their representation on the issue objecting to Chauhan's appointment to Information & Broadcasting ministry.
"We will re-look the current protest only after getting a positive response to our demand by the authorities," Nachiputhu said.
The FTII protests come amidst the criticsm the BJP-ruled central government is facing for reconstituting the Censor Board. Several members of the film certification board have BJP links. Its new chief Pahlaj Nihalani, a film maker, have said he was proud to be a "BJP person" and saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his "action hero".
Nihalani was the brain behind the BJP's campaign video 'Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi' in the run up to the general elections.
This is what Twitter users had to say:
Gajendra Chauhan to oversee cinema. Smriti Irani to oversee education. The BJP will probably ask Salman Khan to oversee road safety soon.— lindsay pereira (@lindsaypereira) June 13, 2015
Nitish used to campaign wearing the Krishna outfit, with even the Sudarshan chakra in hand. Gajendra chauhan has been finally rewarded— Gabbbar (@GabbbarSingh) June 13, 2015
Politics should be out of creative fields, Gajendra Chauhan as new FTII chairman doesn't make any sense.— Biswatosh Sinha (@biswatosh) June 13, 2015
Shyam Banegal, Gulzar, Adoor's names were in running for FTII. Modi Sarkar selected Gajendra Chauhan! What a sixer!— nikhil wagle (@waglenikhil) June 13, 2015
Gajendra Chauhan shouldn't be running #FTII - he'll end up misleading another generation of filmmakers. In a whole new way.— Jay Hind! (@JayHind) June 13, 2015
(With inputs from PTI)