After 85 days in judicial custody, actor Dileep is finally out on bail. The 11th accused in the heinous crime against a popular woman actor, Dileep's bail plea had been turned down by the court four times.
Each time, the court had agreed with the prosecution that Dileep was a powerful person who could influence the case if he's released on bail.
Now, as news broke out that the actor would be let out at last, his fans and supporters celebrated by distributing sweets and even pouring milk on banners with his image on them.
What the bail order says
The court has said clearly in the bail order that Dileep should pay a bond of Rs 1 lakh and that "the petitioner shall not directly, indirectly or through any agent try to influence, intimidate, threaten or coerce the victim or any of the prosecution witnesses by any means, including words expressed or disseminated through any media."
It has further said that Dileep should cooperate with the investigation and that he must surrender his passport before the Magistrate within seven days from the date of execution of the bond.
However, considering the influence that Dileep wields in the film industry where he's a prominent actor, producer, and theatre owner, how practical is it to expect that his release will have no bearing on the case?
Dileep's legion of supporters
In February this year, the state of Kerala was shaken by the news that a woman actor had been abducted and sexually assaulted by a group of men. In the aftermath of the incident, the Malayalam film industry came out in support of the woman actor and vowed to stand by her.
However, when suspicion was raised that Dileep could be involved in the alleged conspiracy that led to the assault, the fissures began to show.
While Dileep vehemently denied the rumours and even indulged in victim blaming, casting aspersions on the woman actor's character and stating that she should have chosen her friends better, his supporters followed suit.
In a panel discussion on Asianet News, producer Saji said that while the victim was harassed for only 2.5 hours, Dileep had been harassed for four months. In his opinion, Dileep was the real 'victim' in the case.
Others prominent members from the film industry like Salim Kumar, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Aju Varghese, and Vysakh wrote on their social media pages that Dileep could not be involved in the assault case because they "knew" he was a good person. Salim Kumar even said that the survivor should go through a lie detection test.
MLA PC George alleged that the victim was making up stories because if she'd indeed been brutally raped, she couldn't have made it to work "the very next day".
The Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA) claimed that both, the accused and the survivor, were its 'children' and that AMMA would protect both. After Dileep was arrested, AMMA as well as a few other organisations, threw him out but the move was only an eyewash.
Soon, a stream of celebrities visited Dileep in judicial custody, each claiming that they simply could not believe someone like him could do something so evil.
Director Lal Jose was the latest to join the bandwagon, appropriating the hashtag 'Avalkoppam' and turning it into 'Avanodoppam', to express his support for Dileep and his new release Ramaleela.
It's not only celebrities and fan associations which have spoken up for Dileep. On social media, there has been a concerted effort to change the narrative about the crime. Counter conspiracy theories have been put forth, without a shred of evidence, to give the impression that the police case against Dileep is simply a figment of imagination.
Southlive editor Sebastian Paul even wrote a "moving" piece on Dileep, comparing him to Jesus Christ!
The survivor's voice
Although the survivor has gone back to work and has even made a few appearances in the media, she has, so far, only spoken about the crime through the Women in Cinema Collective that has stood by her firmly.
It's only the WCC, the Women's Commission, and a few social activists who have spoken out on her behalf and slammed all those who have indulged in victim blaming and character assassination.
The prosecution may or may not be able to prove the case against Dileep. However, to pick teams in the meantime as if this is a cricket match and not a case of gangrape smacks of insensitivity and absolute disregard for the survivor.
If Dileep's coterie could wield so much influence on the narrative when he was in judicial custody, it is worrisome to consider will happen when he's out on bail.
Despite the court orders, one should not be surprised at all to see even more orchestrated sympathy pour in for the "Janapriyanayakan" online and elsewhere.
The survivor may feel she's waging a lonely battle but it is a battle she's fighting for countless women - victims who have been silenced because of the toxic rape culture they live in. Victims who have chosen anonymity and stifled, painful memories to coming out in public and declaring that, "Yes, this happened to me."
There are no banners with her face on it. But then, real heroes are more than mere cardboard cutouts.