Kerala actor rape case Comment

An irresponsible act

Actor Dileep in Thrikkakara, Ernakulam

Actor Dileep in Thrikkakara, Ernakulam | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Former DGP R. Sreelekha’s YouTube channel, with a few thousand viewers for a majority of the videos, often has her talking about her experiences in service. On July 10, she posted a video about actor Dileep. She went to great lengths to whitewash the accusations against him, even accusing the police of fabricating evidence to frame Dileep in the case related to the abduction and assault of a female actor in February 2017. It is pertinent to note that she had no connection with the case.

Within a day, her allegation that a photograph of Dileep with the first accused, ‘Pulsar’ Suni, was photoshopped fell flat, with the photographer Bidil, who had given a statement in the court regarding it, vouching for its authenticity. Doubts were raised about her other assertions too. Her comments casting aspersions on the prosecution and the force come at a time when the case is at a critical stage. While the prosecution is planning to move contempt of court proceedings against her, her comments have drawn sharp reactions from a section of the film fraternity which has stood with the survivor.

Also read | Probe against former DGP for statement in actor assault case

After the popular woman actor was allegedly abducted and sexually assaulted by a group of men inside a moving vehicle on February 17, 2017, she filed a police complaint immediately. In a society where victims of sexual assault are often shamed, those behind the crime might not have expected the actor to lodge such a complaint. That act set off a chain reaction that shook the entrenched power centres of Malayalam cinema, led to the formation of the Women in Cinema Collective and forced the State Government to appoint the Justice Hema Commission to study issues of sexual harassment and gender inequality in the industry.

Although the men directly involved in the act were nabbed within a week, it was only four months later that fingers pointed to Dileep, the alleged mastermind. It was alleged that he had ordered that the assault be shot on video as revenge against her for revealing to his then wife his affair with his co-star. His arrest a few weeks later and 85-day incarceration were unexpected, considering his clout in the industry. But thinly veiled voices of support for him have come from powerful names within the industry and outside, with the leadership of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes too being reluctant to act against him.

The case has taken many turns over the years: witnesses turned hostile, public prosecutors resigned, new witnesses made revelations, and the actor apparently attempted to delay the trial. The trial court judge has also faced allegations of bias, with the survivor and the State Government moving the Supreme Court unsuccessfully to get her replaced.

The trajectory of the case has caused apprehensions of miscarriage of justice. The repeated attempts at whitewashing the accused, even before a court verdict, through social media and at times even through sections of the mainstream media have compounded these fears. Despite the gravity of the allegations, #WithHim campaigns (in response to the #WithHer campaigns in support of the survivor) have been running on social media and some women’s magazines have carried sympathetic interviews with Dileep, portraying him as a family man. The former DGP’s YouTube video comes in this context.

The case and the trial are being viewed closely by those in the film fraternity supporting the survivor as well as the larger society, for a verdict favourable to the survivor could give courage to many others who are scared to speak out. The fact that many women from the film industry have spoken out after her is a testimony to the strength that her courageous act has given them. The fire that she lit should not be doused.

praveen.sr@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jul 14, 2022 1:34:55 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/kerala-actor-rape-case-an-irresponsible-act/article65635271.ece