New Delhi, July 3: The Centre today rejected the demand from students and alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India to revoke the appointment of small-time actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as the Pune-based institution's chairperson.
"There's no question of taking back the nomination of Chauhan," information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley said at a meeting here with the film school's students and alumni.
Students have been on strike at the institute for about three weeks since the Centre announced the appointment of Chauhan, known for his portrayal of Yudhisthir in B.R. Chopra's 1988 TV series Mahabharat.
The students say Chauhan lacks the "stature and vision" to head the institution.
Oscar-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty, an FTII alumnus, said: "The minister assured us the Centre would not interfere in the functioning of the FTII and would upgrade it to world class."
He added: "But he did not address our core demand, which is to dissolve the recently-constituted governing council."
The delegation had three students apart from alumni, who included Kannada filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli.
Besides Chauhan, four others - Anagha Ghaisas, Narendra Pathak, Pranjal Saikia and Rahul Solapurkar - who have been appointed to the FTII governing council have Sangh-BJP links.
The FTII students are demanding the council be dissolved and a committee of alumni be given the power to nominate institute officials.
Sources close to Jaitley said the government could at best give more administrative powers to award-winning director Jahnu Barua who, with seven others, has been nominated to the FTII Society.
"The minister reminded the students they were being provided an opportunity to study film courses at highly subsidised rates compared to private film schools, and the government was open to upgrading the institute further by providing better technology and faculty," a senior I&B official who was at the meeting said.
Harishankar Nachimuthu, president of the FTII students' association, said a decision whether to continue the strike would be taken after the students return to Pune and "discuss with other students and alumni".
Chauhan, a self-proclaimed Modi " bhakt" (devotee), has several times described the Prime Minister as an "avatar" sent by God to eliminate evil.
"My appointment is not political but this protest is political," he told this newspaper today.
"I haven't been invited, so I'm not attending today's meeting but I'm sure the government will resolve this standoff."
About 200 students of the FTII, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University demonstrated outside Shastri Bhavan, which houses the I&B ministry, before being detained by police.