Dozens of women filmmakers across India have expressed “shock and deep disappointment” at the reinstatement of rape accused actor Dileep in the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes. A statement signed by 120 women urged the association to show “sensitivity and responsibility”, and operate democratically.

The association’s move last week to reinstate Dileep led to criticism from several academics and artistes. Dileep had, however, turned down the reinstatement, claiming he would return after “proving his innocence”.

Three actors, members of the Women in Cinema Collective, and the complainant, had resigned from the organisation in protest against the move to reinstate him.

“A body that is meant to represent artistes of the Malayalam movie industry showed complete disregard for its own member who is the victim of this gross crime,” the statement from Women Film Practitioners read. “Even before the case has reached its conclusion, AMMA has chosen to validate a person accused of a very serious crime against a colleague.”

The statement was signed by filmmakers, film editors and researchers from across the country. The group condemned the “cavalier attitude against women artistes”, pointing out misogyny and gender discrimination in the decision. They accused the association of “shy[ing] away from using their position and their medium responsibly”.

A few powerful members cannot subvert and marginalise voices of those less powerful, the statement said.

Kannada artistes condemn Dileep’s reinstatement

Meanwhile, a group of 50 members of the Kannada film industry and Film Industry for Rights and Equality wrote to the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes, calling its decision “inappropriate”, The Indian Express reported.

The signatories said that though they believe in the notion that one is “innocent until proven guilty”, they deem Dileep’s reinstatement as “even more inappropriate since the victim has been a member of AMMA and the accused has yet to be acquitted of all wrongdoing”. “With issues like women’s safety and gender equality being at the forefront of national debate, our cinema industries have strong responsibilities to blaze exemplary trails for the rest of society,” the statement said.

Prominent artistes including Rakshit Shetty, Prakash Raj, Sruthi Hariharan and Yogaraj Bhat endorsed the letter. They demanded the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes to revoke its decision.

Film body’s decision

Dileep was removed from the guild in July 2017 after his arrest in connection with the abduction and sexual assault of a Malayalam actress. The association decided to bring him back on Sunday after actor Mohanlal took charge as president of the guild.

The actress was allegedly abducted and sexually assaulted by a group of men on February 17, 2017 near Angamaly, Ernakulam. Dileep has been charged with planning the attack and hiring the group that carried it out, according to the police.

The Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes President Mohanlal has defended the decision to reinstate Dileep.