16 September 2015 13:00:17 IST

FTII deadlock: BJP leader Madhav Bhandari talks to students

Strike completes 97 days on September 16

In an effort to end the 97-day-old impasse at FTII, senior BJP leader Madhav Bhandari held informal talks with students’ representatives on September 16, even as the relay hunger strike by three protesters continued on the crisis-hit campus.

Bhandari, who is also the chief BJP spokesman in Maharashtra, later 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.”

He made it clear that he was exploring a solution in his personal capacity and had no “mandate” by the government to engage with the students.

Meanwhile, three students continued the relay hunger strike in a makeshift pandal on the campus with one of them — Himanshu Shekhar — completing seven days of his fast on September 16.

The students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) have been boycotting classes bringing academic activity to a standstill to press for their main demand of removal of actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as its chairman, questioning his “credentials, stature and vision” to head the prestigious institute.

Bhandari said he was “hopeful” of resolving the deadlock and appealed to the students to give up their hunger strike as it involved a health risk.

FTII Students’ Association (FSA) leaders Harishankar Nachimuthu and Vikas Urs, who met the BJP leader, told him that they were eager to resolve the stalemate.

They said they were willing for a dialogue with the government to discuss their demands, which also includes creation of a “transparent mechanism” to make appointments on the FTII governing body in the interest of the institution.

The students maintained that they had nothing against Chauhan as a person, but had reservations about his academic stature and his understanding of world cinema which lacks “vision”.

FSA president Nachimuthu said that FTII Director Prashant Pathrabe had told him orally yesterday that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry was “willing” to have another round of dialogue with the striking students after failure of the July 3 talks in Delhi.

“We have, however, nothing in writing about the ministry’s offer,” he added.

Bhandari is the first senior BJP functionary to visit and talk to the students since the commencement of the strike that has hogged national focus.

The protest assumed political overtone with the visit of Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and interaction with the protesting students, who have also staged demonstrations in the national capital.