Days after a sex work racket allegedly involving women actors from the Telugu film industry was busted in Chicago in the United States, a heated debate is underway in the Telugu states over the details that have emerged.
The accused have been identified as Kishan Modugumudi alias Raju alias Sreeraj Chonnupatti, and his wife Chandrakala Purnima Modugumudi alias Vebha. The prime accused Kishan was reportedly a co-producer.
The organised sex work racket was busted by the Chicago investigative authorities, who later charged the couple in April after collecting all the material evidences.
While the Telangana police denied investigating the incident, the Telangana Film Development Corporation constituted a 20-member panel to probe the incident.
Chairman of Telangana Film Development Corporation, Ram Mohan Rao told TNM that the panel will include several industry representatives and also the Cinematography Minister Talasani Srinivas. âWe are investigating the case seriously,â he said.
Meanwhile, activists have expressed displeasure over the coverage of the issue by the Telugu media. They slammed the reportage as âinsensitiveâ.
Activists alleged that several media houses and web channels were speculating about the identity of the women actors rather than focusing on the perpetrators and the people involved in the network.
Speaking to TNM, activist Tejaswini Madabhushi said, âThe coverage of the incident has been predominantly about hinting at who the victims were. They are further shaming the victims. Several web channels and newspapers have been doing it. We appeal to them to focus on the perpetrators rather than speculating on who the victims are.â
The Women's Organizations Joint Action Committee through a press release said: âRather than demanding and instituting inquiries into these international rackets or networks that facilitate sexual exploitation, the public is happy speculating about the identities of the women. Strangely, people seem to think that once the names of the women are out, the well organized and oiled networks would disappear. The problem, as everyone knows, did not begin with women, but with the organized networks and the culture of exploitation in the Telugu film industry."
Further, asking the media to stop naming and shaming the victims, the press release added, âLet us remember that naming of women in issues of sexual exploitation does not help in ending that exploitation. Instead let us focus our spotlight on international networks of brokers, travel agents and producers and work towards eliminating such rackets. Let us also demand that our American Telugu Associations be extra cautious lest they abet this sexual exploitation of women artists. Let us work towards making the global Telugu Film Industry free of sexual exploitation and harassment. That alone can give a good name to the Telugu film industry and Telugu culture!â
Echoing Tejaswini's views, another activist Sujatha Surepally who is part of the Womenâs Collective against Sexual Harassment said that the discourse had degenerated, with everyone becoming curious to find out who the women in the racket were.
âWe have to focus on the perpetrators who are cheating gullible people in the pretext of cultural events. We express our solidarity with the victims and focus should be on identifying this network, who are part of the industry," she said.
The sex work racket was uncovered by the authorities, when one of the victims allegedly approached the authorities.
According to the 42-page criminal complaint filed in a US District Court in Chicago, the investigation authorities came to know about human trafficking after one of the victims approached the authorities and made revelations about the sex racket.
The authorities have identified five victims, who were lured into the trade. The modus operandi of the racket allegedly involved inviting the actors on the pretext of cultural events, accommodating them in a lodge and taking them to all the Indian conferences and cultural events across the US to find potential âclientsâ.
The accused were arrested earlier in April and all the evidences were collected, such as a ledger book and electronic devices.
The incident has come to light months after Sri Reddy, a television anchor-turned-actor, highlighted the issue of sexual exploitation in Tollywood, by resorting to a strip protest in front of the office of Telugu Film Chamber of Commerce in Hyderabad on April 7.