Yet another round of talks on Tuesday failed to end the standoff between the government and Film and Television Institute of India students over the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as its Chairman, with the students alleging "unwillingness or inability" of the authorities to act upon their core concerns.
The students, who have been agitating for removal of Chauhan as well as four society members of the Pune-based institute, held 5th round of talks with Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore for about three hours in Mumbai to resolve the matter.
After the meeting, both sides said they discussed various issues but clearly there was no indication of an end to the 131-day-old strike at the Pune-based Films and Television Institute of India.
The students, who describe the appointments to FTII society as "thoroughly unjust and lacking credibility", said he best way to move forward should now less be attributed to an effort on their part and "more to an unwillingness of the authorities to understand the academic and artistic concerns of the students or an inability to act upon them."
In a statement, the agitating students said they will now decide their future course of action on the basis of "collective wisdom and also an acknowledgment of the sacrifices" they have already made.
Talking to reporters, Rathore said the meeting saw complex issues come up for discussion, including how the 2008 batch has still not been able to complete its course or how the 2011 batch has been able to complete only one year of its course.
"Even if we have to hire more studios or if we have to provide them Doordarshan studios in Mumbai, the main thing is that students should pass this course, get diplomas and do something in their life. This is the most important thing for students," the minister said.
With regard to demands for removal of Chauhan and some society members, the minister said the FTII society was constituted after consulting all the members and the composition was acceptable to everyone. "However, later some people gave different opinions," he added.
When a reporter asked whether there was any discussion about the "contentious" appointment of Chauhan as the FTII council chief, Rathore claimed that the issue was "not contentious".
Student leader Vikas Urs said they have asked the ministry to have a relook at the appointments of not just Gajendra Chauhan but also four other society members. "All the five appointments are contentious," he said.
The students said that like in the previous four meetings with the ministry officials, they reiterated their concerns over their core issues of the strike, the appointments in the FTII society which they described as "problematic and opaque".
"Mr Rathore communicated to us that he would consult with the ministry and get back to us regarding the same, possibly in another meeting sometime in the future," the students said.
The students, while expressing happiness at the direct dialogue with the senior most ministry functionaries, said their core concerns should be addressed urgently.
"We still await a proactive approach from the ministry in terms of resolving the students’ core concerns,” the students said.
The I&B ministry also released a statement about the meeting in which it said it is looking forward to concept note or blue print to be submitted by the alumni or students association and also the report of Mukesh Sharma Committee for taking the matter forward in an appropriate manner in the long term.
It said that during the discussions, Rathore reiterated the government's commitment in establishing FTII as an institution of national excellence.
It was also reiterated that government is committed to ensure academic and creative freedom and excellence in FTII and allayed any fears to the contrary, the ministry said.
"The Ministry expressed concern over the non-compliance of the course schedule and asked for greater interaction between the administration and students for suggesting ways for keeping timelines. It was agreed that these issues will be discussed further," the ministry statement said.
In their statement, the students also said that they have great faith in their collective wisdom that has taken them this far and "initiated a mentality shift in the students and citizens of this nation, to show them that standing up for their rights as a student and a citizen of this great secular nation is something that they are obliged to do, to constantly strive for our development as an inclusive, tolerant and economically developed nation."