Alleged Nirbhaya themed photo shoot causes furor


In December of 2012, shockwaves were sent across the nation as the infamous ‘Nirbhaya’ rape incident became public. Till date it is a very sensitive issue that had taken the Indian politics and society in general, by storm. Now memories of this horrifying incident have been evoked again, in a most unusual way.

Mumbai based photographer Raj Shetye recently uploaded an album of photographs on the internet. It was called 'The Wrong Turn' and it depicted a woman being harassed by several men on what seems to be a bus. Shortly after it was uploaded, it went viral and Raj Shetye received a lot of attention but not the kind he would have wanted.

Social media users began to protest against using the ‘Nirbhaya case’ as a subject for a fashion photo shoot. Initially, Raj Shetye was quite eager to defend his work. He was quoted by several news sources where he said, "It is not based on Nirbhaya…But being a part of society and being a photographer, that topic moves me from inside…This is in no way meant to glamorize the act, which was very bad…It’s just a way of throwing light on it."  He also tried to explain himself on Facebook but that did not melt much ice. As social media got flooded with criticism, the album was removed.

When contacted by media later, Raj Shetye seemed to have mellowed down. He said, "I have been getting a number of calls regarding this, I don't know how to react. The shoot is not based on the Nirbhaya incident. It is just a depiction of the situation of women in our country right now. It is my personal work, not for any commercial value. I have taken the shoot down from my official site. I'm a working professional and I don't want hate messages on Facebook and Twitter."

Even after removing the photos, the criticizing continued. Celebrities like Vishal Dadlani and Purab Kohli expressed their dislike on social media. Vishal posted, “Did I just see a fashion-spread depicting the Delhi gang rape of Nirbhaya? Disgusting! I hope all associated, die of shame! Insensitive swine! Whoever you are Behance and Jitin, I hope you go to jail for this.” Purab Kohli tweeted, “…appalled by this insensitivity. Hurts how we can trivialise such disasters of life, of human nature. Take it down” The fashion community too did not stand behind Raj Shetye. Designer Nachiket Barve tweeted, "You think you've seen everything. A Nirbhaya-themed fashion shoot. Wow. PUKE!"