Sanjana Jon and Shashi Abraham, sister and mother respectively of Anand Jon, the Indian fashion designer currently jailed in California, USA, led a demonstration outside the Gateway of India in Mumbai on Monday.
Members of the fashion fraternity -- including fashion designers Rohit Bal and Shaina N C, along with model Vida Samadzai -- were there to pledge support for Jon, a fashion designer in the US who has several times served as celebrity judge on the popular television programme America's Top Model.
The group organised a candle-light vigil, held up placards and banners, and spoke to the media regarding Jon's imprisonment. Lawyer Majeed Memon was also present and pledged to take up Jon's case in the United States.
After an hour of interaction with the media and crowd, the party placed candles under a nearby tree before offering prayers.
Many demonstrators wore white shirts, which boldly asked: Who framed Anand Jon?
Anand's family alleges that racial bias has influenced the investigation, and they also claim numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct.
Both his sister and mother told rediff.com that Jon was a victim of an elaborate conspiracy started by disgruntled models and spread through cyberspace.
Jon's family is touring India to drum up public and governmental support.
"If our country won't take care of us, who will?" appealed Sanjana, speaking in Hindi to the rapidly gathering crowd.
"I have faith that my Indian brothers will step up. I have faith in our country... This is not just about Anand. This is about everyone, all the Indians across the globe... Now there's the case of Abhijit Mahato, the third Indian to be murdered on US campus within the last one month. And that too, shot in his apartment. When will this stop?"
Both Sanjana and Shashi broke down and cried clutching Rohit Bal as the media dispersed.
"This isn't drama or a publicity stunt," said Sanjana. "This is our life!"
Bal told rediff.com, "Everyone in the Indian fashion industry is shocked. I hope people understand the gravity of this situation. This is a member of our fraternity, and he is suffering unfairly... I don't know him personally, but I do know him well enough to know he is not capable of this. He's a kind and gentle man... And I believe that through the strength of the media and the solidarity of the Indian people, we can help give Jon the justice he deserves. Because, what's happening right now, is like some kind of joke or an evil conspiracy."
"The Indian fashion industry is difficult to unite. But here, we've come together because it's a case of someone being victimised," Shaina N C added.
Vida Samadzai, Miss Afghanistan 2003, indicated that her interactions with Jon in New York City were normal. "He was very kind whenever I travelled through New York, inviting me to dinner and making other nice gestures. He was completely professional," she said.
Jon, an Indian citizen whose family is originally from Kerala, was arrested on rape charges on March 6, 2007, in Beverly Hills, California, after a female acquaintance accused him of sexually assaulting her in his apartment on the night of March 4, 2007. On March 19, 2007, he was indicted on 13 additional counts.
In the months that followed, the number of accusations increased exponentially.
By August 2007, Anand had been charged with over 40 felony and misdemeanour counts in California and Texas, including forcible rape, lewd acts upon a child, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, sexual battery by restraint, attempted forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by a foreign object.
In November, he was hit with another 40-count indictment in New York, where he has shared a home with his mother and sister for several years.
Roughly 30 alleged victims from California, Texas and New York have cooperated with police, and Jon has been charged in all three states.
Jon's bail has been set at $2.1 million. Even if he raises this amount, New York state has promised to arrest him upon release and refuse to set bail, rendering the $2.1 million moot, according to his family.
Image: Vida Samadzai (3rd from left), Sanjana Jon, Shashi Abraham, Majeed Memon and Rohit Bal at a rally near Gateway of India on Monday
Photograph: Satish Bodas