Eighteen students have been added to the list of those accused of holding the institute’s director in his office on August 17, 2015, taking the total number to 35.
While the JNU controversy has been in the limelight the last few days, trouble continues to brew at the Film and Television Institute (FTII) in Pune. On the evening of March 10, police arrived on campus to to issue notices to students that a chargesheet would be filed against them in the sessions court on Monday, March 14.
This chargesheet is over incidents that took place at the office of FTII director Prashant Pathrabe on August 17. Pathrabe filed a complaint with the police over being detained on campus by some students. The original FIR named 17 students. Now, nearly 7 months later, the police have added 18 students to the list of accused. These 18 students, as well as 12 others who are on anticipatory bail, have been issued notices to appear in court on March 14.
“All this is happening with proactive participation from the FTII administration and support from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” the FTII students’ association has said in a press release.
Students and faculty had held Pathrabe in his office for a few hours on August 17 in protest against the manner in which the final projects of the students from the 2008 batch were being assessed. They had asked him to put assessments on hold until the end of the student strike, which went on for 139 days and was held to bring attention to “systemic issues in the institution”. The strike ended on October 28.
For the August incident, students have been charged with obstructing a public servant from doing his duty (a non-bailable offence) and destruction of property, voluntarily causing hurt, criminal intimidation, rioting, wrongful restraint and unlawful assembly.
“[The new notices are] coming at a time when the Screenplay batch of 2013 and Film batch of 2008 are finishing their course and would be leaving 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. The FTII administration on one hand draws out academic schedules and deadlines and on the other hand proceeds with the court cases to corner the students. 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,” said the students’ association in the press release.
Speaking to The Wire, student representative Vikas Urs said that life is going to be very difficult for these students. “The administration is not going to let them stay on campus, but the court has said they can’t leave the city. They will find it difficult to find a job with these charges against them. How are they supposed to afford life here? It is clear arm-twisting from the administration and ministry,” he added.
FTII students plan to continue their struggle against both the administration and the government. Seen in a larger context of what is happening in JNU and other universities, they believe the government is progressively attempting to “criminalise dissent”.