On May 27, students at the Film and Television Institute, Rohtak, ended their three-week-long hunger strike against the administration for arbitrarily introducing a new course in Mass Communication despite the existing crunch in resources.
However, the fight, students say, will continue because the administration has only given a “verbal assurance that they will shift Mass Comm to their [college] sister campus after two years.”
The strike began on May 6, 2019.
Protest and hunger strike
In the first week of May, the college reportedly announced that they will introduce a new postgraduate course in Mass Communication from the next session in the film and television department. The college, according to students, also decided to increase the number of seats from 12 to 15 in every stream to get more funds.
“The new VC has introduced these changes because perhaps he believes that Mass Comm will help us with filmmaking. But these two are separate fields,” said Deepak Jain, second-year student in the FTV department.
According to students, they tried communicating with the administration before going on the strike but the administration assured them that there won’t be any funds or equipment-related problem. “We have been hearing the same thing since 201,1 but we still don’t have the adequate number of cameras and other tools to shoot films. This, eventually, affects the quality of our films. It will get worse with the introduction of a new course,” added Jain.
The students in the film and television department, hence, decided to boycott their classes and go on a hunger strike to put pressure on the administration. They walked around the college campus holding up posters saying, “We Want Justice”, “ladenge aur jeetenge, haq ki ladai hai (we’ll fight and we’ll win, this is the fight for our rights),” “Democratic Dictatorship” and so on.
They also had their mouths taped to depict an “autocratic” administration.
According to a statement released by the students, both the administration as well as police officials resorted to physical violence when the students started the protest.
The registrar, Bharti Sharma, allegedly filed a court case against 21 students for trying to touch and assault her. The students, as per the statement, were then rusticated from the campus and were put under strict police surveillance.
However, the students denied the allegations saying, “the truth is, no one has touched her and we don’t think any of our students have the audacity to touch her in front of policemen and security guards. We also have video proof with us where she was threatening students and saying that the 15 lakh invested for making films on each student is a waste and we and our faculties are eating it all.”
Livewire tried contacting the registrar to get her version of the story but couldn’t reach her. The copy shall be updated as and when we get her quote.
Out of the 21 students, five of them were not even present at the protest site, according to a second-year student. “The college didn’t even issue a warning before rusticating the student. This is against the law,” he said.
Students also allege that those who are supposed to work in favour of students, were turning their backs against them. While the NSS officer Jasbir Singh allegedly used external forces to beat the students, the police official in-charge, students say, refused to register any complaint when they appealed for protection. “They [police] are constantly connected with the administration of the university and informing everything around,” students said.
Allegedly, the state education minister, too, hasn’t extended support to the students.
Students also said that Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad – a right-wing student organisation – objected to the contents of the posters. “ABVP has threatened us for using the ‘Aazadi’ slogan where the content was not anti-national,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, on May 27, eminent filmmakers – who have been associated with the university – wrote a joint letter to the vice-chancellor appealing him to cancel the rustication orders of the 14 students.
“We hope that the authorities will take an empathetic view of the situation and withdraw the police cases filed against the students and suspend the expulsion order immediately, and will wait for any further action till the internal inquiry is concluded,” said the letter.
For now, the college has decided to cancel the rustication orders issued against 21 students and will probe the matter through an internal inquiry committee.
The students, too, didn’t budge and continued with the protest. While they continued their strike in tents on the college’s campus, some of them also put up a street play called Taanashah to show the administrative apathy towards students.
Students say, on the night of May 27, they had to call off the protest as parents intervened. However, the administration has, as yet, not given any written assurance.
“Our fight is still on for truth and justice, it’s just that the strike is called off,” said students.
Featured image by special arrangement