Seven months after BJP member Gajendra Chauhan was controversially appointed as the chairman of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the 59-year old on January 7 took charge of the Pune Institute.
As expected, the move was not welcomed by FTII students, and they protested against Chauhan at the gates of the institute.
To ensure that Chauhan’s first meeting after taking charge goes on smoothly, a huge number of police personnel were deployed all across FTII’s Pune campus.
To avoid disruption, the cops had also prohibited any student movement close to the television wing, where the meeting was taking place.
But even with added added security measures, police had to detain more than 40 FTII students after they staged a protest outside the campus, just before the meeting.
The students reportedly gathered outside the college premises and even after repeated warnings and its consequences, went on to protest and shout slogans against the chairman.
To get the commotion under control, the police had to resort to lathi-charge so as to disperse the agitating crowd and then detained several protesters, pushing them into police vans and taking them to the police station.
On being asked about the situation, the students alleged that they were not allowed to enter the institute’s premises and were heckled by the police.
A senior student Vikas Urr, went on to add:
“It is a shameful incident. Despite knowing that students were protesting peacefully, police forcefully cordoned off the area and pushed the students inside the vans. I was handcuffed by the deputy commissioner of police. We were treated like criminals. This is our home. We stay here. We cannot accept Chauhan as FTII chairman. Ill-treating us will only intensify our protests. We will continue to protest.”
“We have been brutally targeted by police who lathi-charged us with the knowledge of FTII administration,” alleged one of the students as he was put in a police van and whisked away.
“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,” said a woman student of the FTII, Shimi.
After being detained, a student named Vikas, along with another senior student Rakesh Shukla questioned the officer incharge, DCP Tushar Doshi, on what basis were they detained and on what basis had the police denied the student movement in the area where the meeting was taking place.
Police in turn replied that it was a precautionary measure adopted by them to maintain law and order in the campus.
On his part, Chauhan remained unfazed and said: “It’s about fulfilling the responsibility… I have been ordered by the government, and I will do my job. Let me go there and see. I can’t comment on what they will do, but I am ready to do my job.”
In June last year FTII students had gone on an unprecedented 139-day strike, demanding removal of Chauhan as FTII Chairman.
The strike had started on 12 June, 2015 and was called off on 28 October, 2015 when students decided to return to their classes after repeated negotiations from the government.
A clean-up drive is also going on at the campus to remove graffiti on the walls and protest paraphernalia and slogans painted all around the various buildings by the students during their stir.