Students mentally tortured me: FTII director Prashant Pathrabe

Pune: Accusing striking students of FTII of insulting behaviour, using cruel interrogation and causing mental torture, FTII director Prashant Pathrabe today said he approached police as a deterrent step and rejected suggestion that action was taken under pressure from the I&B ministry.

FTII director Prashant Pathrabe addressing a press conference in Pune on Wednesday. PTI
FTII director Prashant Pathrabe addressing a press conference in Pune on Wednesday. PTI

Police, in a pre-dawn swoop, today arrested five students on a complaint filed by Pathrabe and registered FIRs against 15 others under various sections of IPC. The students whose strike entered the 70th day today, are demanding removal of BJP member and TV actor Gajendra Chauhan's from chairmanship of the FTII and stoppage of the assessment of incomplete diploma film projects of about 50 of them from the 2008 batch.

"I was tortured, threatened, physically pushed around and subjected to disrespectful and insulting behaviour by about 40 odd students, who came to my office cabin and used cruel interrogation asking repeatedly why I ordered assessment of the incomplete film projects of the 2008 batch," Pathrabe, looking visibly disturbed, told a press conference held in the campus. He said the students "called me incapable and inefficient" and tried to break him down but "I did not".

Describing the gherao, which he said lasted for 8-10 hours on Monday evening, as a "pre-planned drama" by the students, the director alleged that it was demonstrative of violence as the students vandalised furniture in the office.

"Their claim of carrying on a peaceful agitation is just a facade," he added. He rejected the suggestion that he was forced to file the police complaint against the students under pressure from the I&B ministry.

"I am still in a state of mental shock and it will take a couple of days for me to recover from the traumatic experience," Pathrabe, the director of Pune PIB who took over additional charge as FTII director on July 17 said, adding that it was difficult to deal with the students who try to dictate terms to those who manage the institute.

As Pathrabe entered the conference hall for the press meet, many students lined up his way along the corridor holding placards condemning police action.

A third year student said the gherao by the students was "peaceful", but it was a "revengeful act" on part of the management to file the police complaint and arrest the students.

Another female student claimed that it was police, who manhandled the students and had a scuffle with them while trying to disperse the group. Police are still looking for 10 more students named in the FIR in addition to the five arrested. A police official said
they will seek police custody of the students after they are produced in court.

Detailing the reasons that led him to file a police complaint, the FTII director said, "The students tortured me using interrogation techniques, verbal assault including asking the same questions repeatedly and threatening me to take back my decision on assessment of the film projects."

"During the gherao, the students tried to reach the Joint Secretary I&B ministry in Delhi, but could not get through," he said in reply to a question. He said the decision to assess the incomplete diploma film projects on "pro-rata or as is where is basis" had approval of the FTII academic council and the faculty, which initially agreed to implement it, but later expressed reservation about the timing of the proposed assessment (during the strike period).

The dean felt that the students should be given an opportunity to complete the projects after the assessment. "The faculty and I tried to be fair to the students in the assessment of the projects," Pathrabe said. He, however, announced that the controversial assessment of the 2008 batch incomplete film projects will be "on hold" till further notice.

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