The protests over the appointment of BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)received a shot in the arm on Thursday with 190 eminent personalities urging President Pranab Mukherjee to intervne, while the government blamed the students for taking "an extremely hard line". Three students also began a hunder strike.

In a letter to the president, the signitories urged him president to declare FTII a centre of excellence, de-link it from the information and broadcasting ministry and grant it autonomy.

"The Ministry had arbitrarily chosen Shri Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of the Governing Council, a position earlier held by eminent film-makers like Shri Mrinal Sen, Dr. U.R. Ananthamurthy, Shyam Benegal, Girish Karnad and Adoor Gopalakrishnan, among a host of other eminent appointees. This appears to have been done in haste, sans due diligence or widespread consultations," says the letter, sent on Thursday, the 91st day of the stir.

Also, there are "at least four political appointees with little or no cinematic achievements of note", the letter said, adding that the signatories were disturbed by the developments.

Prominent individuals like Mani Ratnam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Jahnu Barua, Dibakar Bannerjee and critically acclaimed actress Vidya Balan have signed the letter.

The government, however, refused to budge.

"Unfortunately the students have taken an extremely hard line. We are ready to resolve all issues. We have had multiple talks with them. There have been innumerable back door negotiations with the students. Some of the legendary actors, directors, producers have negotiated on behalf of both, they have given up," Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore said at a press conference at the BJP state headquarters in Panaji.

The protesting studnts were equally resolute

"We will continue to do whatever we can in our capacity as students to ensure that the government comes... so that there is a mutually agreeable solution to this," Ranjit Nair, a member of the core committee guiding the protest, told IANS on the phone from Pune.