The Association of Malayalam Movie Artists, which held its general body meeting in Kochi on Thursday, was widely expected to condemn the abduction and assault of a leading actress. This was the first time the association’s general body had convened since the incident in February. However, the association chose to rally behind one of its office bearers who has been questioned in connection with the case.

The actress, who has many hits to her credit, was assaulted in a moving car on February 17 near the Kochi International Airport. She was on her way from Thrissur to Kochi when she was abducted.

All actors in the Malayalam film industry, including superstars Mohanlal and Mammootty, attended the general body meeting. Actor Dileep – who was interrogated by the police for 13 hours on Wednesday in connection with the case – is the association’s treasurer.

Journalists booed

At the press conference held after the meeting, the association’s president, Innocent, told journalists that “no one raised the issue at the meeting”.

When the media pressed hard for answers, KB Ganesh Kumar, the vice-president of the association, who looked visibly annoyed, said that no one raised the issue. “We are standing firmly behind the attacked actress and Dileep,” said Kumar. “We will not allow anyone to victimise Dileep.”

After Mukesh, another leading actor and an executive member of the association asked the media not to ask unnecessary questions, its members started booing the journalists present in the hall.

However, Rima Kallingal, a leading actress, said that she had brought up the subject of the assault at the meeting. “I raised the issue, but it was not discussed,” she said.

Another actress, Remya Nambeesan, had promised to bring up the subject of the assault at the meeting while talking to the media on Thursday morning. “We will raise the issue for discussion,” she had said. “It is of great importance for us.”

Kallingal and Nambeesan were active in the formation of the Women in Cinema Collective recently. It was formed to fight gender issues in the Malayalam film industry. Following the Collective’s plea, the Kerala government recently formed a three-member panel to look into the problems faced by the women in the film industry on June 14.

Dileep’s complaint

The actress was attacked on February 17 when she was travelling by car from Thrissur to Kochi after a shoot. She got into a minor accident with another vehicle near the Kochi International Airport. The accident was a trap, and a group of men forced their way into her car. They held her hostage for over two hours in the moving vehicle while they assaulted her and took photographs of her.

So far, the police have arrested six persons in connection with the incident, including ‘Pulsar’ Suni, Martin and Vigeesh.

Even as the police investigation was going on, Dileep lodged a complaint on April 20 alleging that a co-prisoner of Pulsar Suni was blackmailing him. He said that the prisoner demanded Rs 1.5 crore for not dragging his name into the case.

On Monday, during a television interview, Dileep claimed that the assaulted actress and the prime accused were good friends.

The actress, however, denied the allegation in a press release on Wednesday.

The statement says:

“I was hurt when I heard a remark made by an actor who said that Pulsar Suni and I were good friends…The actor also mentioned that one should be careful while selecting friends. I was pained by this statement and if need be, I might even consider taking legal steps. My hands are very clear. I had told all the truth to the police.”

AV George, Superintendent of Police of Aluva Rural, who is one of the investigating officers, told reporters on Thursday that the police might interrogate Dileep once again. “We are investigating all aspects of the case,” said George. “We need to get a clear picture on certain aspects.”

The police have not yet registered a First Information Report based on the blackmail complaint filed by Dileep in April.

Several people criticised the association’s silence on social media on Thursday.