Newspapers screamed, ‘A leading South Indian actress kidnapped and assaulted in a moving vehicle by a group of men’. Reports did not name her but her name and photographs were displayed prominently on online sites as well as many news channels. The next minute, the world knew who the eminent actress was. Some sympathized, some blamed her while some as usual commented, ‘These actresses are all like that’. She hadn’t done anything wrong. All she had done was ‘dared to travel alone’ without bouncers, secretaries or assistants. It was her own city and she was just returning from work.
She could have avoided going to the police and hushed the matter, which I am sure many would have advised her to. But she did not sit crying. She filed a police complaint and described each and every detail of the incident to the police. She also underwent a medical examination.
This was not the first case of a woman being attacked by a gang. And this won’t be the last. There are also many women who dared to face the consequences of complaining against their attackers. Some were killed brutally for not giving up, like Nirbhaya while others still have to go out of their home with their faces covered. All these while, the attackers either are let off or get bail after a few months. They go home, get married, have family and live happily forever. Then, there are so many cases where the culprits were never arrested because the victims did not come forward to lodge a complaint or were they pressurised and blackmailed not to? Oh, now, there is a new term – survivors. But I wonder if we can call them that because they are never allowed to survive the incidents because they are shamed again and again. In a land where virginity is considered to be the basis of goodness and virtues for women, the judgemental view will continue to fall upon these victims.
The irony is that when it comes to shaming women, nobody is spared, be it a powerful politician, an Olympic medal winner, a popular actress, an eminent journalist, a teacher or a young girl from a village. Yet, women rise like phoenix from attacks, abuses, humiliation, to fight. That is what makes every woman a warrior. She may not have soldiers to back her or a kingdom to fight for and neither is a prince waiting for her, yet, she chooses to fight her battle, knowing very well that there may not be a victory in sight. Still, she carries on because she knows that the torch she has been bearing will soon find new takers and that for them, she has to soldier on.
That is what this actress did. She vowed not to give up the fight and the case still continues. All the attackers were arrested including the main culprit, Pulsar Suni. As per his statement, Dileep, a leading Malayalam actor was arrested for conspiracy. Even now, after around 7 months since the incident, news channels continue their ‘discussion’ on the case. People come, some in her support but many on television questioned her integrity and character. Being a braveheart, she decided not to sit and cry. In fact, she joined a film shoot just a few days after the incident. Her decision to join her work even when her wounds were fresh was also met with ridicule.
Then she did the unthinkable. She appeared on the cover of a leading Malayalam women’s magazine and gave an interview detailing the incident and her decision to fight till she gets justice. What amazed me was that, as she was being attacked and was surrounded by goons, she did not lose her courage. She noted down the routes, the names of men, the registration number of the vehicles and she listened intently to the conversation these men were having. When she gave the vehicle number to the police, a constable remarked, ‘this may be the number’ but she corrected him, ‘No, that is the vehicle’. How many men will have that courage in times of adversity?
She knows she will be reminded of the incident for years to come and that she will be judged by many but as she said in the interview, “If I would have chosen to remain quiet, only five or ten people would have known about it but then I would not have been able to live with dignity. If I could file a police complaint, then anyone can. It is the culprits who have to feel ashamed, not the victims. I am going to fight till the end.”
She has proved that to be a warrior, you do not need swords or shields but a heart of steel and a resolve that won’t break in the face of obstacles and humiliation.
To her and many more like her, some known, many unknown, I dedicate this post.