Photographer Raj Shetye’s latest project, called ‘The Wrong Turn,’ depicts an Indian model being groped by a group of men on a bus. Many were quick to point out the fact that the images seem to be influenced by the horrific attack in December 2012 in which a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was gang raped on a private bus in Munrika, India. The woman – dubbed Nirbhaya (which means ‘fearless one’) - later died from her horrendous injuries.
‘Did I just see a fashion-spread depicting the Delhi gang rape of Nirbhaya? Disgusting!’ Bollywood music director Vishal Dadlani tweeted. ‘Whoever you are... I hope you go to jail for this,’ he added.
The pictures, which were posted on photography site Behance, have now been taken down. And Shetye has responded to criticism in an interview with Buzzfeed, saying, ‘It is not based on Nirbhaya. But being a part of society and being a photographer, that topic moves me from inside. I stay in a society where my mother, my girlfriend, my sister are out there and something like this can happen to them also.’
After the 2012 attack, four of the men were sentenced to death while a fifth, who was aged just 17 at the time of the rape, was sentenced to three years. It caused international uproar prompting stricter laws on sexual violence in India. Which makes it even more bizarre that this shoot has emerged which seems to glamourise the attack.
In fact, so strong were people’s reaction to the shoot that Shetye took to Facebook to defend them for a second time. ‘It is meant to highlight our double standards where people expect the rich or well-heeled to dress well and travel in the luxury security and comfort of their own vehicle,’ he said. ‘It was intentionally done in a bus to cause men to think of what gives them the right to assume that well-dressed women on public transport (signifying public spaces in general) can be targets & also what gives the general public the right to cast aspersions on women and their character if they are well-dressed and seen in public.’
So what's your verdict? Whether the photographer intended to create a comparison to the horrifying situation or not, he's certainly caused huge upset… not least, it’s fair to assume, to Nirbhaya’s family. And haven’t they been through enough already?