Rape allegation against actor and producer Vijay Babu has made the biggest film actor's association in Kerala vulnerable. Now, the Kerala police are not just questioning those close to the woman actor, who has raised the complaint, but also members of Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), The Quint has gathered.
While the police have registered two cases against Babu – one for alleged rape and another for disclosing the name of the survivor during a Facebook live – AMMA’s subsequent actions in the case too are under scrutiny, because of the objections raised by three women actors including Maala Parvathy, Cuckoo Parameshwaran, and Shwetha Menon.
According to police sources, Ernakulam police are trying to know if AMMA members knew about the alleged abuse even before the complaint was filed.
This means that the probe has reached the doorstep of AMMA, as some of the members of the association are allegedly in touch with the accused who is still believed to be absconding. Babu is believed to be in a west Asian country. Police have also issued a lookout notice to nab him.
What have Kerala police gathered from AMMA so far? The police have got hold of the three resignation letters that Parvathy, Parameshwaran and Menon sent to AMMA. The Quint has accessed copies of the letters.
While Menon’s letter was addressed to Mohanlal, the president of AMMA, Parameshwaran wrote to General Secretary Edavela Babu, and Parvathy addressed all AMMA members.
Shwetha Menon's Letter Raises Suspicion of Alleged Collusion
In her resignation letter dated 3 May, Shwetha Menon wrote, "Following the EC meeting on 1 May 2022, and the subsequent media release, I strongly feel that there is no relevance for Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in AMMA. I had made an attempt to reach out to you, explaining my predicament and situation…" That is, as per the letter, Menon had tried to reach Mohanlal, the president of the body before tendering her resignation.
Menon’s letter "proves that a communication channel was open, to discuss Babu’s conduct, even with the top administrator of AMMA," a police official said, adding that the police want to know what other AMMA members and office bearers knew about the complainant’s plight.
The complainant had alleged that Babu got her intoxicated and raped her on multiple occasions.
When The Quint reached out to Shwetha Menon for a comment, she refused to answer.
As the letter was also copied to the general secretary of AMMA Edavela Babu, the police may ask him whether any of the AMMA members had prior knowledge of the abuse.
On 4 May, Edavela Babu had reportedly attended a meeting with Kerala’s Minister for Culture Saji Cheriyan on implementation of Justice Hema Committee recommendations.
Cuckoo Parameshwaran’s Letter States EC Oblivious of ICC’s Role
In her resignation letter addressed to Edavela Babu, Cuckoo Parameshwaran wrote, “As AMMA’s EC doesn’t approve or acknowledge the ICC recommendations, there is no point in continuing in the same when my time and integrity is questioned.”
Parameshawaran did not answer The Quint’s queries.
The reference in the letter was about the ICC’s recommendation that Vijay Babu should be asked to step down from his position as an executive committee member. While AMMA announced on 3 May that Babu decided to step down, the letter indicates that the women actors were miffed that disciplinary action was not taken against the accused for revealing the name of the complainant.
While Parameshwaran “pledged loyalty” to AMMA, she wrote, “I do believe AMMA can do better.” The letter emphasises the “legal and judicial sanctity” of the ICC as an “independent body.”
The letter read, “The clear mandates given by the sexual harassment acts against women in workspace is something which the committee has to follow and apply with due diligence.”
The police said that, in the light of the letters of resignation, it has to be probed whether AMMA wilfully tried to influence ICC to favour the accused. “When a police investigation is going on, such interventions can be considered illegal,” the police source told The Quint.
Maala Parvathy’s Letter Questions AMMA on ICC’s Autonomy
While actor Maala Parvathy has been vocal about her resignation and the reasons for it, her letter indicates that AMMA infringed upon the ICC’s autonomy.
“…Being a committee member is a huge responsibility and it can only be done if the committee is autonomous,” the letter read.
Parvathy raised doubts on whether she can “deliver her responsibilities” as per her conscience. “Chapter two of the Sexual harassment of women (prevention) at work place act-2013...gives clear mandate to the committee members. (ICC) is not just a grievance redressal committee, but also has to implement policies to prevent harassment,” her letter further read.
When contacted, Maala Parvathy did not want to comment on the content of her resignation letter.
However, as per Justice Hema Committee recommendations too, the ICC should be an autonomous body which should look into complaints of sexual harassment and other grievances that members of any workplace raise.
While the police may not probe AMMA ICC’s ethical dilemmas, a probe on whether the members were “threatened to submission” can be done, the police officer said. “However, in the statements that we have received from AMMA members, we have not found any threats implying physical harm, so far. Mental harassment is a different matter, and will be probed when a relevant complaint gets registered.”
The Quint has reached out to AMMA and its General Secretary Edavela Babu for a response. The article will be updated when they respond.