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Is FTII justified in not handing out scholarships to dissenting students?

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) has started refusing scholarships and the opportunity to participate in foreign exchange programmes to students who have pending ‘disciplinary matters’. The matter in question is the four-month long strike by the students to protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the head of the institute.

According to a report by The Indian Express, FTII Director Bhupendra Kainthola has directed the heads of departments (HODs) and Deans to route all files pertaining to scholarships and foreign exchanges through the office of the Proctor, who is in charge of maintaining discipline. Incidentally, the office of the Proctor was formed in FTII only after the strike ended in November 2015.

Documents obtained by The Indian Express, under the Right to Information Act, from various FTII departments showed that the nomination of eight students, who have “disciplinary matters” pending against them, came under the scanner.

Although Kainthola has justified his decision in not giving out scholarships to the students, other teachers in FTII feel that the decision is harsh.

“Issues of discipline are minor infringements… and should not prejudice our assessment of students who are basically talented. Hence, scholarships should be awarded to students. However, the final decision is with the director,” said Amit Tyagi, Dean (Films) while speaking to The Indian Express.

The students had gone on strike on June 12, 2015 to protest the Information & Broadcast Ministry’s surprise appointment of television actor-turned-politician Gajendra Chauhan as Chairman of the institute. Chauhan, who became famous for his portrayal of Yudhishthira in BR Chopra’s adaptation of The Mahabharata, had campaigned for the BJP in 2014.

The students had questioned Chauhan’s ‘creative credentials’ and whether he has the requisite vision in guiding the institute that has been earlier helmed by internationally-renowned luminaries such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Karnad, U.R. Ananthamurthy, and Shyam Benegal, who have graced Indian theatre, cinema and literature. Chauhan, on the other hand, had acted in a few small television shows and B-Grade films.