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Rape after IFFI show provokes sharp questions, reactions

Rape of a Swiss diplomat in New Delhi has raised several questions, reports Manjula Negi.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2003 10:04 IST
Manjula Negi
Manjula Negi

The rape of a Swiss diplomat on Tuesday night, after she was kidnapped by two men from the poorly-lit parking lot of Siri Fort Complex has raised many questions vis-a-vis an event such as IFFI, India's only hi-profile international film event.

The IFFI, which showcases over 200 films in 10 days, has been witnessing a diminishing presence of delegates, both foreign and Indian, over the years. This year the festival has been particularly low profile in this regard. One of the reasons for this is DFF's reducing festival fund, which has forced the authorities to invite fewer guests.

While foreign delegates -- numbering not more than 50-60 this time and 39 arrivals as on date, are usually invited with their films, the festival has also seen its lowest ever turnout so far even where Indian delegates are concerned.

While public screenings are usually at various city theatres, press and delegate screenings are held at Siri Fort and the delegate passes have been free of cost in the past. This time, however, the DFF decided to charge Rs 200 per delegate card. And in a city used to freebies, this wasn't a welcome change. As a result the usual motley crowd comprising babus, their friends, bureaucrats' families and others like them preferred to stay away rather than cough up the money.

There is an increase, however, in the number of students and younger people getting delegate passes this year. The fee is also being charged from filmmakers whose films haven't been approved but who wish to attend nonetheless.

Says an I&B official who does not wish to be named: "Delegate passes despite the fees are being given out to all and sundry. One wonders what DFF's screening process has been."

This observation came after it has been alleged that the two rape accused had befriended the victim at the festival venue itself (even as Certain officials denied the same), were well dressed and spoke impeccable English.

Delhi’s Lt. Governor who reached the site of the incident on Wednesday afternoon admitted the security lapse in the VIP zone but added that action has already been taken against the cops on duty. "Five of them (including one inspector, two head constables and two constables) have been suspended. This should not be taken as a mere incident.”

The director of the festival, Neelam Kapur, who addressed the media much after the Governor and the DCP had, mentioned that security has now been “beefed up to 100 personnel for late nights and about 60 in the daytime. Security has also been stepped up at the public screenings venue this time, (Anupam PVR Saket).

In a separate case of molestation and attempted robbery, an hour after the rape incident in the same parking lot, involved a young filmmaker from Mumbai who resisted and screamed when attacked. The girl who hit back with her purse that the attackers were trying to snatch from her, suffered injuries on her head when she fell down on the pavement. She is currently recuperating in the ICU at the Apollo hospital.

The parking lot in question isn’t the only one which is poorly lit. In fact, the VIP parking lot (opposite gate no. 2 and the more frequented gate) also has no proper lighting. Says senior Mumbai film critic Maithili Rao, a festival regular since 1983: “I'm staying at the guest house across the Siri Fort Complex and one walks down every night after the films in near darkness. There is no proper lighting in that lot as well.”

"One has never felt unsafe in the past years. There were lots of times when I've taken a cab alone after a late night show. In fact, my brother stays in Defence Colony and on a rare occasion when one took the festival transport back, one has even walked home from the main Defence Colony crossing. One has never felt threatened.”

Adds Brahmanand, filmmaker from Mumbai: "This is shocking. If incidents like these can take place at an event organised at this level, one wonders about the other places. And the security and alertness should have been adequate before not after."

First Published: Oct 15, 2003 21:20 IST