Around 80 activists, both men and women protesting Kannada film industry’s action during Darshan controversy were manhandled by Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) members and plain clothes men claiming to be police. The group of about 80 activists – comprising mostly women and a few men – had assembled in front of the KFCC, Kumara Park East, near Shivananda circle, on Saturday, September 24, holding a silent protest.
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Problems started as soon as the group was about to start protesting. Protesters had made two demands – one that Darshan should apologise publicly, and second that film industry should set up a committee to look into violence against women within the industry.
The group included activists from about 10 organisations in the city, such as Vimochana, Karnataka HIV Sonkithara Sangatane, GATWU (Garment and Textile Workers Union), Lesbit, Sangama, Dalit Bahujan Chaluvali, Samanatha Mahila Vedike etc.
As soon as the group started protesting, policemen asked them to move saying that they had no permission to protest in the area. Though they had earlier applied for police permission to protest in front of KFCC, the location allotted to them was Anand Rao Circle. KFCC had a huge gathering on Saturday as election to its committee was about to happen on Saturday afternoon. The protest was organised in that venue for the same reason.
The protesters had dispersed and were standing on either side of the road in front of KFCC, silently holding placards when some men who were dressed in plain clothes but claiming to be from the police, started snatching away their placards. They were soon joined by KFCC members.
Even as the police were looking on, film industry members pushed and jostled the women and shouted at them to leave. Policemen chose to ignore this while stashing away the placards. Heated arguments followed between industry members and protesters.
Of those who were aggressive to the protesters, some said that there should be no protests at all while others said that the protest should be held in a different location. Almost all opined that Darshan’s case was a family matter and that others should not interfere in it.
Rajendra Kumar, KFCC member and theatre-owner from Mysore, said, "They can protest, but they should go elsewhere as elections are about to happen here. About 5000 people – directors, actors, producers, distributors and exhibitors – from the state are coming here today." When asked why he was getting agitated about a silent protest, Kumar did not elaborate further.
Shekhar, Chairman of Kannada Sangha who was at the venue, said, "Darshan’s case is a personal matter and the industry does not have to deal with it. Those who are protesting are non-Kannadigas and they are insulting Kannada."
However many in the group were local residents. While most were activists, some were laypeople who came to show their support. Danielle Baritto, 19, a student of KLV Law College in the city, said, "I came to know about the protest from a person who is linked with Vimochana. I find this a relevant issue and wanted to show my support."
Another protestor Kiran Kumar works in an IT company. "A female relative of mine had gone through domestic violence recently. When we approached Vimochana, they protected her and helped solve the issue. I have been volunteering for Vimochana for the last one year and want to support this cause," he said.
A few police personnel interfered after a while; it took about half an hour of negotiations for the protesters to get back their placards. They were allowed to assemble outside KFCC for a few minutes and to meet Basanth Kumar Patil, President of KFCC, who was going to quit office on Saturday.
Patil came out to meet the protesters and assured them that the demand for forming a committee will be looked into. "The newly elected committee will meet tomorrow. I will place this demand as part of the agenda," he said. Protesters have demanded that the committee to prevent violence should have senior representatives from women’s groups and social justice groups.
Later the protesters walked down the road up till Kumar Park East. Madhu Bhushan, activist at Vimochana, said, "The behaviour of the industry members today reflects how the industry portrays and thinks about violence against women. We wanted to use the Darshan episode to raise concern about how women are treated in the industry."
Gowri G, member of Samanath Mahila Vedike said, "The industry’s attitude is that women should suffer violence silently. A committee in the industry is necessary as women have no voice there; it’s like we have gone back by some 200 years."⊕