FTII impasse: Centre makes fresh offer to students for talks

As the impasse over actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan's appointment as FTII head nears 100 days, the Centre on Wednesday made a fresh offer to the striking students for talks but without preconditions.

PTI| Last Updated: Sep 16, 2015, 20:25 PM IST

 New Delhi/Pune: As the impasse over actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan's appointment as FTII head nears 100 days, the Centre on Wednesday made a fresh offer to the striking students for talks but without preconditions.

The offer by the Information and Broadcasting ministry was made even as senior BJP leader Madhav Bhandari held informal talks with students' representatives today amid the continuing relay hunger strike by three protesters at the campus of the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune.

In a letter addressed to FTII Students Association (FSA) President Harishankar Nachimuthu, the ministry said that on previous occasions progress towards ending the current stalemate could not take place because students had gone back and laid stiff preconditions. The letter was written by Joint Secretary (Films) K Sanjay Murthy.

Emphasising that the ministry is fully conscious of the seminal role FTII has played in shaping Indian Cinema, Murthy said that in case the students are keen to end the impasse they can contact him.

"In case you are keen to end the stalemate and resume the academics, you are welcome to discuss the issues with the Ministry without any preconditions," he said. The impasse entered the 97th day today with the students insisting on removal of Chauhan.

The letter mentions that one of the interactive sessions "at the highest levels within this ministry" was held on July 25, in the presence of Nachimuthu and well meaning interlocutors Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Raju Hirani.

The letter noted that a few days later, an email was sent to the ministry on July 31 by the FSA "laying down stiff preconditions" which were not in consonance with extant FTII rules and squandered the progress made in the meeting.

For the ministry, the engagement on July 25 was a "leap of faith and a sincere attempt to move forward, it said.

It adds that Director FTII Prashant Pathrabe reinitiated the dialogue on September 1, but once again another communication similar to the tone and tenor of the email sent on July 31 was sent stalling progress.

This communication also completely bypassed the paradigms of the possible settlement reached on July 25, the Ministry official's letter to the students said.

"This was indeed a disappointment from the point of view of the Government," it added.

"Ministry has also been given to understand that atleast on one occasion the representatives of the students, resiled on the commitments made by them to the interlocutors in Mumbai within less than twelve hours of the dialogue," the letter said, adding that pressure has been sought to be built up by an array of tactics.

The ministry said that for a dialogue to be meaningful and successful, it has to be appreciated that unilaterally one side posturing can never be a precondition of any negotiations or dialogue.

"It is also to be appreciated that all such dialogues can take place in a harmonious and conducive surroundings/ atmosphere only when the day to day rhetoric and posturing are avoided," Murthy writes in the letter.

In Pune, Bhandari, who is the chief BJP spokesman in Maharashtra, told PTI, "My visit and talks were in personal capacity during which I tried to find a common meeting ground to end the strike. When there are negotiations to discuss the issues raised, a give and take approach and not a rigid one matters."