A three-member team of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry arrived in Pune on Thursday night, raising hopes of a possible resolution of the impasse at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), where the students' strike for removal of TV actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman entered the 71st day.
Coming against the backdrop of unprecedented police crackdown on the campus and arrest of five students on Tuesday night, the delegation leader SM Khan (Registrar of Newspapers in India) said in Pune, "The Ministry has constituted the committee to solve the issue at the earliest. We have come with an open mind."
The committee members will be talking to the faculty, non teaching staff, students and the director on Friday, he said.
"We will try to calm down the students as much as possible. I cannot comment on arrests," Khan told reporters, adding he was "optimistic about finding a solution".
The director Prashant Pathrabe was not under any pressure, he said, when asked whether Pathrabe filed the police complaint leading to arrest of students on instructions from the ministry.
The FTII Students' Association (FSA) on Thursday denied Pathrabe's claim that he was "tortured" during the prolonged gherao at his office on Monday evening.
"Echoes of laughter were rising through the room every few minutes. Despite the students' repeated questioning him (about assessment of incomplete diploma film projects) all efforts were made to make him comfortable and at ease with numerous tea, vada-pav breaks. The situation escalated only when the police entered," it said in a statement .
Meanwhile, over 60 visiting faculty members, in a letter to the I and B Ministry, have urged the government to shun "high handed and confrontationist" view of the strike and adopt a pragmatic and honourable approach to find a solution.
The striking students have questioned Chauhan's "credentials" to head the premiere institute. They have also objected to the director's decision to conduct assessment of incomplete diploma film projects, now put on hold.
Earlier in the day, the students sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention.
"Prime Minister should visit FTII to resolve the issues. All students in the country are feeling threatened by the government's insensitivity towards the problems being faced by them," FSA representative Vikas Urs told reporters.
Five students, including Urs, had been arrested on rioting charges on Tuesday following the gherao. They were released on bail by a local court later.