It was not long ago that dramatic events that put movies to shame unfurled in Malayalam film industry when actors’ guild A.M.M.A. (Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes) backed rape accused actor Dileep and shunned the survivor and her supporters. Now, with yet another annual general body meeting of the association coming up on Sunday, it seems that the organisation helmed by president Mohanlal is once again clarifying its stance of siding with the accused and putting out a word of caution for anyone who dares to oppose the organisation that they will have to face the consequences. Looks like the decision to curtail freedom of expression of members and protect those facing allegations has been taken while giving an impression that A.M.M.A. is offering ‘a sugar-coated opportunity pill’ for increased representation of women in its top posts!
In a copy of the proposed bylaws of the A.M.M.A. accessed by Kerala Chronicle, the executive committee, in a 72-page document, has introduced a few amendments to the existing bylaw, which ridiculously includes initiation of disciplinary action against ‘any member who acts against the interest of the association’ and offers chance to a member who is accused of moral turpitude a chance to explain ‘his’ (read accused as nowhere in the document is a mention of a ‘she’ or survivor) side, avail of a copy of the internal enquiry report and even contest the findings of the committee.
It is to be noted that the amended bylaws include formation of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), which serves as a panel to look into complaints related to sexual harassment. The A.M.M.A. announced formation of the ICC last year after the Kerala High Court issued it a notice based on a writ petition by the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), which finally led to the outfit toeing the line with the Vishaka Guidelines and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act), 2013.
It's always ‘his’TORY
The pages 50 to 54 of the document explain that the executive committee, at the event of a complaint of sexual misconduct against a member, during the inquiry proceedings lets him (after the membership gets suspended) submit a written statement of defense while the disciplinary committee conducts inquiry and sends ‘him’ a copy of the detailed inquiry report. Then the accused gets his chances to explain – first, if he desires so and second, when the committee offers him a personal hearing before taking a final decision.
According to the document, signed by A.M.M.A general secretary Edavela Babu, “The Executive Committee of the Association shall have the power to initiate disciplinary proceedings against a member either “suomoto” or on receipt of a complaint of misconduct which is unbecoming of a member of the association or involving moral turpitude or allegations of a grave nature or any acts against the interest of the Association or for breach of any provisions of the bylaw of the association… The order of suspension shall be referred to the disciplinary committee within 15 days of the order of suspension… The disciplinary committee shall forward a copy of the memo of charges and statement of allegations to such member before commencing the enquiry proceedings. He is entitled to submit a written statement of defense within a period of seven days from the date of receipt of memo of charges and statement of allegations, if he desires so.”
Further, it reads, “The disciplinary committee shall conduct enquiry on charges levelled against to such member. The committee shall afford reasonable opportunity to the concerned member and the presenting officer to adduce oral as well as documentary evidence… The disciplinary committee shall prepare a detailed enquiry report specifically mentioning the charges proved or not proved against such member and the enquiry report shall be submitted to the executive committee… The executive committee/disciplinary committee shall send a copy of the enquiry report to the member concerned seeking his explanation on the findings contained in the enquiry report. The member shall submit his explanation within 7 days from the date of receipt of the copy of the enquiry report, if desires so. The committee shall afford a personal hearing to the member concerned before taking a final decision.”
The disciplinary punishment includes censure, expulsion from the primary membership of the association which may extend up to six months, or removal from the primary membership.
Any reference to women in A.M.M.A. limits to the glaring capital letters in its name. The rest, as always, is ‘his’tory!
Thou shall not oppose
Interestingly, the veiled threat to uprising comes in page 56 under Article V(A): Code of Conduct. The bylaw reads, “No member shall publish or cause to be published any statement in newspapers, internet, social media, cable TV, world satellite television broadcasting through cable/via cable TV, internet through cable, wire & wireless FM, OTT, mechanical synchronisation publishing, merchandising, advertising and any type of telecasting existing or that may come to use in future, over any media whatsoever that is existing or that may come to use in future, make any announcement or utterances or statements publically criticising the activities of the association, of executive committee or of any member in the executive committee or of any other member of association and such activities will be treated as misconduct.”
And if there’s a complaint, what should one do? A.M.M.A knows everything; here’s the solution, “If there arises a cause for a member to have grievance against the activities of the association, its executive committee, a member of its executive committee or of any member of the association, such member shall make a representation in that regard to the association, addressed to the president, who shall cause the same to be placed in the next meeting of the executive committee and the executive committee, after affording an opportunity of being heard, shall intimate its decision concerning the grievance to that member in writing. If the member is aggrieved by the decision of the executive committee, the member shall make an appeal in writing to the general body of the association through the general secretary of the association within 30 days of receipt of the intimation from the executive committee. The appeal shall be considered in the next general body meeting and the decision of the general body shall be final.”
A shorter version of the long-winding wordplay means this: In case anyone has a complaint, the all-loving A.M.M.A has a solution – Come to mother. I will hear you, consider your woes and decide on it. And that decision, whether you like it or not, would be final!...