Fresh notice to 18 students for 'confinement' of FTII Director

Pune: Police have identified 18 more students from FTII in connection with the alleged "gherao" and "illegal confinement" of the institute's director Prashant Pathrabe last year and issued them notices to present themselves before court on March 14.

However, the FTII Students' Association (FSA) has dubbed the police action as "arm-twisting" tactics by Film and Television Institute of India's administration.

With this, the total number of students named in the case has reached to 35, as 17 students were identified earlier. Out of those 17, five were arrested while 12 others are out on anticipatory bail.

"Seventeen students were already identified and named in the earlier FIR. Now, after screening the video footage of the incident, the complainant (Pathrabe) and eye-witnesses have identified some more students, and on that basis their names have been included in the case. They have been issued notices last evening," Deccan-Gymkhana police inspector Pravin Chaugule said. He said the police are in the process of filing a charge sheet in the case by Monday.

Besides the new 18 students identified, the 12, who were earlier named in the FIR but not arrested, have also been asked to present themselves in court, he said.

The FTII students, who were on strike for 139 days since June last year against the appointment of BJP member and TV actor Gajendra Chauhan as its chairman, had allegedly gheraoed and confined Pathrabe at his office on August 17. They had challenged his decision to go ahead with the assessment of the incomplete diploma film projects of the 2008 batch students.

The incident had led to police swooping-in on the campus on the intervening night of August 18-19, and arresting five students. The students were charged under various sections of IPC, including 143, 147, 149, 323, 353 and 506, dealing with offences, some of them non-bailable, related to unlawful assembly, criminal intimidation and rioting.

Meanwhile, the FSA has condemned the police action. "The FTII administration on one hand draws out academic schedules and deadlines, and on the other proceeds with the court cases to corner the students," it said in a release issued here.

"It is extremely disheartening and shameful to see the administration of a premier government-run institute arm-twisting its students on orders from their superiors, who happen to be the elected representatives of the citizens," the students' body alleged. It makes sense to see this in the context of the incidents in JNU and a progression in the current government's approach and attempts to "criminalising dissent", it said.

Questioning the fresh police action, the FSA further said, "It has been nearly seven months since the incident and now the police identify 18 more students and add them to the list of already accused students."

"All of this happens with the proactive participation from the FTII administration and support from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting," it alleged.

The students' body further said the police action has come at a time when the Screenplay batch of 2013 and Film batch of 2008 are finishing their course and would be leaving the campus.

"The 12 students on anticipatory bail have been ordered by the court not to leave Pune jurisdiction, but would be finishing the course and with these notices would be left wanting for a place to live," it said.

Lamenting Gajendra Chauhan's silence over the issue, the students' body said, "The Chairman of FTII and the Governing Council remain silent with respect to the court cases." "The Chairman was asked by the faculty to relook at the cases during the Governing Council meeting held on January 7 this year. He, however, sidelined it as a non-issue and continues to put pressure on the FTII administration to evict the students of 2008 batch who are at the fag-end of their diploma films," the FSA said.

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