Pune: Amid dramatic scenes and vociferous protests by students, TV actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan on Thursday took charge as Chairman of FTII, seven months after his appointment, even as police resorted to lathicharge and detained nearly 40 protesters.
However, in what could be a compromise formula to resolve the row over Chauhan's controversial appointment that led students to go on an unprecedented 139-day strike, the FTII society today chose producer-director B P Singh as its Vice President and also Chairman of Academic Council. The students, who are demanding Chauhan's removal, called of their strike on October 28.
Singh, who is known for Television serial 'CID', is an alumnus of FTII.
A senior Information and Broadcasting ministry official said that during negotiations, student representatives had at times questioned Chauhan's credentials related to academic curriculum and they believed that with Singh heading the Academic Council, such issues won't arise. "Singh studied film making at FTII and is a veteran in this field, so a lot of concerns raised would be accommodated," he said in Delhi.
Police lathi charge students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) protesting against President, FTII Society, Gajendra Chauhan, in Pune on January 7. Pic/PTI
Police rounded up about 40 student protesters using force as they staged a demonstration, beating drums and displaying placards with slogans of "Gajendra Chauhan go back" and calling him a "political appointee". During the course of the protests, Chauhan was confined to his hotel room in the vicinity of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII).
When asked about the continuing students' protest to his appointment, Chauhan, before reaching the campus, said, "We have come to do a job. We have an agenda and we will do our job."
At the FTII society meeting today apart from Chauhan and Singh, filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani, actor Satish Shah, film critic Bhawana Somaiyya, Akademi Awardee Director Urmil Thapliyal, Assamese Film actor Pranjal Saikia and others were present. Other controversial members of the FTII society with alleged BJP affiliation -- Rahul Solapurkar, Anagha Ghaisas, and Narendra Pathak -- also attended the first meeting convened by Chauhan as the chairman.
An official statement released said that B P Singh was elected as the Vice President of the FTII Society while Hirani, Singh, Saikia, Shah, Pathak and Somaiyya were nominated to the Governing Council. Singh was elected as the Vice Chairman of the Governing Council and it was decided to nominate the Vice Chairman of the Governing Council as the Chairman of the Academic Council, the statement added.
The FTII Students Association (FSA) members, who had earlier called-off their 139-day strike last year opposing Chauhan's appointment alleging that he lacked stature to head the institute, gathered early in the morning at the main gate of the FTII, ignoring a warning issued yesterday by police to maintain peace at the time of Chauhan's entry on the campus.
A scuffle ensued between police and the protesters as police used force to put them in vans and detain them to clear the gate before Chauhan left for FTII to take charge. As the protests continued, a woman student of the FTII, Shimi told PTI, "We were protesting peacefully to register our dissent because political appointees are taking charge as members of the FTII Society. We got beaten up without provocation and taken to police station. Our protest and resistance will continue."
However, Pune's Deputy Commissioner of Police Tushar Joshi, who was on the spot, said, "We had asked the students to demonstrate peacefully, but we had to use force because they wanted to block the way to the institute and therefore we had to detain them. We used minimum force."
The students continued to raise anti-Chauhan slogans even as his car entered the FTII premises. Meanwhile, the FSA said that though they had withdrawn their prolonged strike on October 28 despite lack of response from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to their demand for removal of Chauhan, the students were determined to carry on their resistance to his political appointment in a peaceful manner.