Pune, Maharashtra: Students of the Film and Television Institute of India took out a protest march today to press for the removal of former TV actor Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of the renowned acting school.
Some 200 students walked four km holding up banners screaming "cultural fascism" and "democratic dictatorship" to protest against the decision of the central government to appoint Mr Chauhan as the institute's governing council chairman last month.
Students and many famous alumni of the institute believe that the council has too many appointees that are backed by the BJP and its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and do not match illustrious predecessors like filmmakers Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Karnad and Saeed Mirza among others.
"The constitution of the FTII society is appalling. The credibility of people in council is questionable. They're only in it because of their political affiliations. We want the society to be dissolved and reconstituted in a transparent manner", said Vikas, a student of the institute.
Many of the protesters had painted their faces with question marks suggesting that the government's moves must be questioned.
The government has been firm on the decision to appoint Mr Chauhan and has invited students for talks on the Friday. "We speak the language of freedom of expression and protests will continue until the government understands that," said a student, Yashaswi.
National film award winner and FTII alumnus, Paresh Kamdar said, "Who are the kind of people who would be guiding the academics in this place? Do they have the kind of credentials that they need to be able to guide this place? That's the main issue."
No classes have been held at the institute in the last three weeks.
Mr Chauhan, who is best known for his portrayal of Pandava king Yudhisthir in the mega TV serial "Mahabharat", had earlier said it was wrong to question his credentials and had asked students to give him time to prove his mettle.