The students of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune, 2020 batch, have undertaken an indefinite hunger strike from 15 May 2023 onwards, demanding the reinstatement of a Dalit student removed from the course.
Five students of the 2020 batch were expelled by FTII citing reasons like lack of credits and low attendance. Protesting against this decision, many students boycotted their classes starting from 10 April. Following this, three of them were accommodated on a provisional basis on the condition of completion of assignments decided during an Academic Council (AC) meeting on 1 May. Another student was allowed to continue after providing his medical certificate as proof of absence.
Ayush Verma, a reserved (SC) category student, was the only one asked to repeat the second semester as a supernumerary student along with the re-payment of fees. A supernumerary seat in FTII is highly unfair as it excludes people from participating in practical experience and coordinated projects, students allege.
According to the students, this decision is discriminatory on multiple fronts and the administration fails to provide sound reasoning. Moreover, the administration gave a Proctor Notice to all the students of batch 2020 who halted their academics from 10th April, restricting their access to scholarships, film festivals, and foreign exchange programs.
The students of FTII expressed their concerns over the insensitivity of the administration regarding its treatment of mental health issues as Ayush provided a medical certificate stating a year-long engagement with his psychiatrist. He was made to submit details that violate his confidentiality as a patient.
Providing the administration with a letter suggesting reconsideration of the issue and reconciliation measures for Ayush’s accommodation, the students point out its lack of engagement with their demands. The punitive measures taken against Ayush prove to be antithetical to the values of equal opportunity, equitable education, and inclusivity.
The demands of the student of batch 2020 are the reinstatement of Ayush Verma without any discriminatory conditions and the beginning of the semester anew after the strike ends along with the formation of a CBCS Review Committee to review the academic structure. The students have also highlighted the lack of safeguards for reserved category students, such as an SC/ST Cell, given the systemic discrimination that exists in Indian educational institutions; as well as the administration’s insensitive treatment of issues concerning mental health.
The FTII students association calls for an open and transparent dialogue with representation from faculty and student body to reach a resolution that does not compromise a student’s academic experiences.