SRFTI students protest against ‘dictatorial attitude’ (Lead)

The students’ body at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) on Tuesday launched a protest against imposition of “draconian rules” and “threats of expulsion” every other day.

The protest comes in the wake of the expulsion of 14 women students, allegedly over hostel segregation.

“For the last 25 years, there was no rule regarding segregating male and female students in separate hostels. This rule was made overnight and also implemented overnight.

“Male students were shifted to one hostel and female students were asked to move to another part and it was labelled as ‘Girls Hostel’. Besides this, different gender based rules were imposed.

“This is a film school and SRFTI is a liberal space and such rules were never there. We don’t know how to practice the freedom of expression,” an expelled student said, adding this is a form of “moral policing”.

SRFTI students say the authorities claimed the rule was imposed to “ensure safety and security” of students. Several female students have earlier complained of sexual harassment by faculty and students.

“Segregating students is not the solution. This is ridiculous. They should deal with sexual harassment cases,” said another protesting student.

They said the institute has turned into a “highly undemocratic space” and slammed the “dictatorial” and “authoritarian” attitude of the authorities.

In a statement on Tuesday, the student body said: “The administration has been coming up with draconian rules every other day and threatening the students constantly with expulsion from the institute, calling the police to threaten the students, imposing fines.”

The students said “We want the threat of expulsion and police to be removed. Till that time, the students will go ahead with the strike with the firm resolve that it will not be taken back until our demands are met.”

They pointed out “horrendous living conditions in the hostel”, fee hike and imposition of monetary fine for shortfall in attendance and delay in submission of fee, academic projects are being cut and modified, no increase in academic budget over six years as well as corruption.

SRFTI Director Debamitra Mitra clarified that the decision for “hostel segregation” was in the process since 2009.

“At that time, there was only one building. There was one boys’ wing and one girls’ wing. Funds were released in 2013 for a separate girls’ hostel. This was completed in 2015 and it was decided to carry out the segregation.

“It was also decided that the hostel segregation should be completed by this academic year and accordingly we have started the process from May this year. In the first phase, the male students who were in the ladies’ wing shifted to the boys hostel,” she said.

However, 14 girl students refused to shift to the girls’ hostel, Mitra said, adding, when all negotiations with them failed, the SRFTI authorities on October 11 asked them in writing to shift to the girls’ hostel within 48 hours.

“Yesterday (Monday) it was decided in an emergency general council meeting that the 14 girl students will be expelled,” added Mitra.

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