By Prarthana Mitra
Note: Qrius will update this list as and when more names emerge.
According to global data analytics and media intelligence firm Meltwater, India is now responsible for creating 25% of the global online chatter around #MeToo, a movement that began in the US a year back with the takedown of Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood predators.
On social media, where the movement started, the mentions shot up to a record 2,60,000 mid-October. The extensive coverage by media has helped keep the buzz alive; according to their report, the movement found 28,900 mentions in editorial news between October 1 and October 30.
More power to voices of survivors
Due to this collective hysteria, India is now witnessing a historic moment in its centuries-old crusade for women’s rights. Men responsible for making the boardrooms, casting couches, studios, hotel rooms, newsrooms and classrooms unsafe places for working women are being forced to step down from their position and privileged insulation.
Institutions are finally recognising and taking stock of the larger ramifications of rampant predatory behaviour and instead of intimidating the voices of survivors that would be silenced ten years ago, the perpetrators are being handed their rightful dues. Yesterday itself, a renowned professor of IISc, Bengaluru, was forced into compulsory retirement after allegations surfaced against him.
Ratnakar Bharti, radio programme director
However, All India Radio seems to have missed the memo. Instead of taking stringent action against an official accused of sexual harassment by nine female employees, AIR’s Shahdol station (Madhya Pradesh) opted to sack the complainants, a pattern than the Times of India reported as recurring in many other stations of AIR. The station’s assistant director in programming, Ratnakar Bharti, was declared guilty by the ICC last year, but he continues to work out of AIR headquarters in New Delhi, where he was transferred following the probe. The senior management provided evasive answers on why Bharti was retained, while the women (All casual broadcasters) were laid off.
Rakesh Sarna, former CEO, Taj Hotels
A former executive assistant with Taj Hotels came forward with her bitter experience of working under Rakesh Sarna, CEO and MD of the group, back in 2009. A Graduate from Sciences Po (Paris), Anjuli Pandit, faced “repeated unwanted sexual advances” from Sarna, until she was “left with no choice but to quit.“ In her resignation letter, she alleged sexual harassment, details of which she provided to the press this week:
“Over the seven months, he remarked on my looks, his attraction to me and his desire to have an affair. His advances were very verbal, and I was always clear, I was not interested at all. Whether I deflected, professionally requested, or burst into tears in frustration, he persisted. The environment became intolerable as we both lost our patience.”
Lodging a complaint with the POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) committee would be futile, she says, as it included Sarna and had his subordinates as members. Pandit claimed that none of the Taj Board members, Tata Group Executive Council members, nor the Chairperson offered her a viable solution, demoting her instead to back-office job, asking her to resign from Taj Hotels.
In 2016 during the Cyrus Mistry ouster, Tata Sons set up a committee after she wrote to their lawyers about the company’s inadequate preventive measures against sexual harassment. She was never furnished with a copy of the committee’s findings. When asked about it, a spokesperson for Tata Sons declined to comment saying that the matter pertained to Taj Hotels.
Here’s how it started
Last month during an interview with Zoom TV, Bollywood actress Tanushree Datta revisited her traumatic experience on the sets of Horn OK Pleassss with Nana Patekar, ten years after the incident. She accused him and three other crew members of sexual harassment, following which she quit the film only to be severely heckled by Patekar’s cronies.
This time people took note and actually listened. And women did not just listen; they screamed #MeToo.
Right when the gavel fell on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court, which birthed the #WhyIDidntReport movement, Indian women rallied over social media, coming forward with their triggering and traumatic accounts of verbal, emotional, physical abuse in the hands of men we have come to unquestionably worship. From Vikas Bahl and Rajat Kapoor, to Kailash Kher and Alok Nath, the names keep pouring in.
Many claim that the Weinstein wave has finally hit the shores of Bollywood, but a Dalit feminist and lawyer Raya Sarkar tried to expose predatory figures in Indian academia last year but was violently quelled by liberal feminists and men’s rights activists alike. This time, the momentum has gathered storm, and the toxic male camaraderie in Indian media and the stand-up comedy scene took a beating as well, now facing a reckoning that was long overdue. Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal made a crucial observation this week, regarding the class disconnect and the campaign’s reach. In an interview with Mint, she said that #MeToo must reach small towns and rural areas.
In a recent interview, Sarkar said, “I am glad so many women are whistleblowing abusers and men who have no right to occupy the positions they do in society from where they abuse and exploit the most vulnerable. A lot more can be done because dalit, adivasi and bahujan women’s voices are missing from the discourse right now. Marginalised women’s trauma and their voices should not be an afterthought, instead should be in the core of any emerging campaign.”
Women journalists took to Twitter to report on decades of abuse of power from their male counterparts. While some allegations led to resignations, others have started an important conversation about what sexual harassment at the workplace constitutes. Noted names from Indian academia including Bidyut Chakrabarty of Delhi University and Sadanand Menon of Asian College of Journalism were brought up in similar contexts.
MJ Akbar, once a noted journalist and recently resigned Union Minister, is now the most high-profile name on the list. The hearing for his defamation case will be heard on October 31, while Alok Nath’s suit drew the court’s ire when he demanded that accuser Vinta Nanda be banned from posting on social media.
Here are the names that exposed the dark underbellies of each sector. Qrius will update this list as and when more names emerge.
Film and entertainment
Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India
An anonymous account of sexual harassment has surfaced against Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India and President, 21st Century Fox – Asia. The accuser alleged that she had to quit her job after the harrowing experience.
Vipul Shah, director
Sacred Games star Elnaaz Norouzi accused Vipul Shah of sexual harassment for the three months that he kept her on the hook for his upcoming project Namaste England. It was evident that if I slept with Vipul, I would get the part. Every time I went to his office, he tried (to hit) on me. He (would) inappropriately touch me, and (try to) kiss me,” she said. Norouzi gave a detailed account of unsolicited advances, mental torture and sexual harassment that she fortunately escaped when she received the offer for Sacred Games.
Ajit Thakur, film executive
Film writer Supriya Prasad wrote to the Screen Writers’ Association earlier this week, narrating her ordeal with Ajit Thakur, veteran film executive and current content head of Reliance Industries’ content studio in collaboration with Eros International. He relentlessly proferred her drinks and drugs, asked her lewd and inappropriate questions at an interview in April. Inappropriate touching was involved. There has been no response from the accused or the parent company yet.
Mukesh Chhabra, casting director
Casting agent of several Bollywood blockbusters including Gangs Of Wasseypur, Kai Po Che!, D-Day and Highway, Mukesh Chhabra was accused by two aspiring actresses of sexual harassment during auditions. Although he denied them vociferously last week, Fox Star Studios on Friday suspended his directorial debut starring newcomer Sanjana Sanghi who has accused co-star Sushant Singh Rajput of misbehaviour on set as well. Chhabra reportedly defended the 32-year-old actor.
“As a responsible organisation, Star India takes any allegation of sexual harassment of women at workplace very seriously. Hence, Fox Star Studios has suspended the services of Mukesh Chhabra, director of our film Kizie Aur Manny, which is under production, till the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of M/s Mukesh Chhabra Casting Company concludes its inquiry into the allegations against him,” read Fox Star Hindi’s tweet.
FTII alumnus alleges sexual harassment during an interview with veteran film exec Ajit Thakur. Credit: The Daily Star
Anu Malik, composer
Taking a cue from Sona Mahapatra who previously reported against Kailash Kher and called Anu Malik out, singer Shweta Pandit on Wednesday accused music composer Anu Malik of harassing her when she was a minor. Calling him a “pedophile and sexual predator”, Pandit called Malik out for misbehaving with her when she was just starting out as a playback singer in Bollywood.
Had to go back to my worst memory as a teenage girl today to write this and speak up – its now or never. This is my #MeToo and have to warn young girls about #AnuMalik & let you know your #TimesUp @IndiaMeToo
Thank you @sonamohapatra for speaking up about him & supporting this pic.twitter.com/e261pGQyEq
— Shweta Pandit (@ShwetaPandit7) October 17, 2018
Just a day after his lawyer issued a statement calling Pandit’s claims false and baseless, two other survivors who wished to remain anonymous spoke to mid-day about their harrowing experiences with the composer. One of them recounted how Malik sexually harassed her at his residence which involved lifting her skirt and dropping his own pants down. He even dissuaded her from talking about it when she tried to make a run for it. The other account details an encounter that took place in a sound-proof recording studio seven years ago. The accuser, then a budding singer, claims that Malik hugged her and ran his hands all over her body without consent.
Alisha Chinai, standing by all the women who have accused Malik of abuse, claimed with authority that every word against him is true. The singer who rose to fame with Made in India composed by Malik, had also accused him of molesting her back in 1995. Another singer Caralisa Monteiro later confirmed that Malik’s ill reputation precedes him and she had made it very clear about meeting him only at the studio. Malik has since stepped down from his position as a judge on the reality show Indian Idol.
Kushal Nandy, director
Chitrangda Singh has accused director Kushan Nandy of forcing her to do intimate scenes. Nandy is the son of Pritish Nandy and director of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, which had Nawazuddin Siddiqui playing the lead role.
Singh said that Nandy was forcing her to do intimate scenes, which were unnecessary and did not go with her character. She also said that she was asked to wear an unbuttoned blouse and a petticoat and lie on top of Siddiqui, with her legs spread apart. Since she refused to shoot for the scene and quit the film, Bidita Bag replaced her. Singh also noted that though Siddiqui was present on-set, he did not say anything.
Sham Kaushal, action director
Nameeta Prakash, an assistant director for ‘Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd’ and ‘Ab Tak Chappan’, spoke out against Sham Kaushal, director-father of actor Vicky Kaushal. She narrated their encounter in 2006, when they met during an outdoor shoot, after which he invited her for a drink to his room. When she had refused firmly, he reportedly showed her a pornographic MMS on his phone. Sham Kaushal has since issued an apology over Twitter for his sexual misconduct.
Vicky Sidana, casting director
Actress Kritika Sharma accused casting director Vicky Sidana of attempted rape that took place 5 years ago when the twain first met for an audition. According to a TOI report, her account details the kind of emotional and physical abuse she was subjected to, as his pet project.
Soumik Sen, director
Actress Chandrai Sarkar accused the director, recently in an interview with Zoom TV, of online sexual harassment when they met on the sets of Anubhav Sinha’s Gulaab Gang. She recounted how Soumik sent her inappropriate messages, would stalk her online and even wrote lewd poems about her body parts.
Zain Durrani, actor
Along with Sajid Khan and Vikas Bahl, Saloni Chopra named Zain Durrani in her Medium post, accusing him of physical and mental abuse when they were in a relationship. It was when Durrani allegedly hit her in front of a friend on multiple occasions that she finally called it quits. Director Onir who launched Durrani was reportedly heartbroken to hear of the allegations at a later time from Saloni herself.
Karim Morani, producer
Chennai Express and Ra.One producer Karim Morani has been accused of alleged rape and blackmail by an aspiring Delhi-based actressm who shared her account for the first time, a year about Morani was booked on the same charges.
According to news reports, Morani allegedly came to her house and forced her to drink in 2015. “Next thing I know, I wake up at 4 am. I was numb and shocked. Physically and mentally, I was in a state of shock. Karim was not there. I saw there were marks on my body when I woke up,” the survivor said.
Subhash Kapoor, director
In February 2014, actor Geetika Tyagi accused and filed an FIR against Subhash Kapoor for molesting her. He was arrested in June 2014 but was later released on bail. Amidst the #MeToo furore, Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao announced that his production house would be dropping out of Kapoor’s upcoming biopic ‘Mogul.’ Later, Balaji Telefilms’ Ekta Kapoor also sacked the director from her upcoming webseries, The Verdict.
Piyush Mishra, actor
Actor Piyush Mishra stands accused of inappropriate behaviour and making sexual advances at a former newspaper staffer, Ketki Joshi, at a party in 2014. Mishra says he can’t recall the incident when this happened but has offered an apology saying it was never his intention to make a woman uncomfortable.
Padma K Stalin, documentary filmmaker
Activist and co-founder of popular community media platform Video Volunteers, Stalin K Padma, was accused of sexual misconduct by two women including an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. One of them spoke out regarding an incident that took place during her internship at VV, when Stalin allegedly took advantage of the fact that she was completely alone in a new city. After suggesting that she spend the night at his place, “when we were watching a movie on TV, he began touching and stroking my face, arms and knees. I did not respond at all. I froze. All I can remember is extreme discomfort,” the woman wrote.
In response, Stalin told Mirror, “I am sickened and hurt to my core to read this allegation. Truly, I neither remember this incident nor do I believe it ever happened. However, I am truly and very deeply sorry for any hurt and pain I have caused to this person or any other. It truly has never been my intent, but I am aware that even inadvertently I may have caused offence. I unconditionally apologise.”
The ICC at VV later issued a statement saying it has taken full cognizance and launched a suo moto probe into the matter.
Subhash Ghai, director
An anonymous accuser, reportedly a “very credible media/lit personality, who does not want to be named,” accused Ghai of spiking her drink and sexually assaulting her years ago when they worked on a film together, a claim the director “strictly and firmly” denied on Thursday.
Sajid Khan, director
Two accounts of sexual and emotional assault have come to light involving Bollywood director Sajid Khan. The first by actress and journalist Saloni Chopra outlines a traumatic period when he was employed under him, that included calls at odd hours, to relentless verbal abuse, manipulation, threats, and inappropriate touching. Chopra also accused Vikas Bahl and actor Zain Durrani of physical abuse.
Khan has also been accused by journalist Karishma Upadhyay of sexually harassing her when she went to interview him at his sister Farah Khan’s house; he allegedly exposed himself and forcefully kissed her.
— YellowStoneDragon ðŸŒˆ (@karishmau) October 11, 2018
Actors Dia Mirza and Bipasha Basu also said they believed Chopra, as the latter corroborated how Sajid “cracked lewd jokes openly and was pretty rude to all girls.” Actress Rachel White, who met him during the casting of 2015 film Humshakals, later alleged that the director promised to offer her the role if she could “seduce him in 5 minutes.” Journalist Karishma Upadhyay also added to the list, saying that he once blocked her way and “forced his tongue down her throat.”
Khan’s sister and choreographer-director Farah Khan issued a statement claiming she and her family are “heartbroken” by the allegations. Soon after, Sajid announced he would be “stepping down” as the director of work-in-progress Housefull 4 after Akshay Kumar cancelled the film’s shoot, a move supported by Riteish Deshmukh.
Nana Patekar, whose actions in 2008 in a way fuelled the movement in the first place, also dropped out of the film’s cast following Kumar’s ultimatum to investigate the matter before resuming shoot.
Ashish Patil, talent manager
Allegations have emerged against Ashish Patil, a talent management executive at Yash Raj films. An anonymous account, shared on Twitter by activist Japleen Pasricha, narrates Patil’s alleged inappropriate behaviour.
#MeToo Sharing an anonymous survivor account of a former model and former aspiring actress who has spoken against @patilashish of YashRaj Films of sexually exploiting her. Screenshots are with her consent. #TimesUp pic.twitter.com/jMe7Yzx5hB
— Japleen Pasricha (@japna_p) October 10, 2018
Patil has denied all allegations and said he will cooperate with any investigation, but wants the woman or her friend, who she says is aware of the incidents described, to come forward.
Abhijeet Bhattacharya, singer
After a flight attendant alleged that Abhijeet Bhattacharya had sexually harassed her at a pub in Kolkata over 20 years ago, the Bollywood singer made ridiculous excuses, including, “I wasn’t born at that time.” He further angered netizens when he said he doesn’t pay attention to fat and ugly girls, who are now coming out to blame people.
Nagraj Manjule, director
Fandry and Sairat director Nagraj Manjule’s ex-wife Sunita came forward, crying foul and accusing him of financial, emotional and physical abuse. Sunita’s harrowing account of her marriage only gets worse, as she recounts, “…he made me go for 2-3 abortions, and whenever I raised my voice for keeping the child, he thrashed me, with his bare hands, leather belt and sometimes, a log of wood.”
Fans and cinephiles are shocked because Manjule is known for his stand on caste oppression and he himself stated in several interviews that women are the dalits of the dalits.
Srijit Mukherji, director
An unnamed woman accused the Tollywood director of refusing to work with her after learning she isn’t single. Her anonymous account also included a recapitulation of events which described predatory and non-consensual behaviour over telephonic and Skype conversations. Later, Mukherji brushed these allegations off over a Facebook post, which received a comment from model-actor Rachel White. She too pointed out that he had asked her about her relationship status multiple times, and made her feel uncomfortable when she was still a rising actor in the Bengali film industry.
Singer Sahana Bajpaie commented, “The fact that debates are taking place, questions are being asked, explanations being rendered – is itself a brimful of hope. Just really don’t want “trial by media” to trivialise a movement as important as #metoo. That would be a shame.”
Rajat Kapoor, actor
Noted actor and director Rajat Kapoor was accused of sexual misconduct by two women, a journalist and an assistant director. The former said Kapoor asked her inappropraite questions during a telephonic interview in 2007. The second accuser said Kapoor called her multiple times for a film’s shoot ten years ago, asking if she knew of an empty house where he could shoot alone with her.
He responded to the allegations on Sunday, apologising for his behaviour over Twitter, “If there is one thing more important to me than even my work, it is to be a good human being. And I have tried to be that person. And now, I will try harder.” Kapoor’s upcoming film Khadak was also dropped from MAMI.
Alok Nath, actor
On Monday, filmmaker Vinta Nanda accused actor Alok “sanskari” Nath of rape over a Facebook post, where she laid down a horrific account of the incident that allegedly took place 19 years ago, besides accusing him of taking credit for her success.
Nath has responded by neither accepting nor denying the allegations, saying that the incident may have occurred but it didn’t involve him.
On Wednesday, actress Sandhya Mridul also accused the actor of sexual harassment, describing her ordeal while shooting a telefilm. I come from a time when nobody wanted to hear. I was a nobody. When I tried to speak I was labelled arrogant and difficult. And replaced from work,” she said. Read her entire account here.
Kailash Kher, musician
Natasha Hemrajani, a female photojournalist, accused the artist of sexual harassment dating back to 2006. In an elaborate Twitter thread, the journalist spoke at length about her experience when she went to his residence to interview him with another female colleague. “During the interview, this creep sat between us as close to us as he could. He also kept putting his hands on our thighs (on the skin above our skirts),” she claimed. Kher has expressed shock at the allegation, saying he has nothing but respect for women.
On Tuesday, singer Sona Mahapatra and four other women also came forward alleging harassment at the hands of Kher and model Zulfi Syed.
Vikas Bahl, director
A co-founder of now-defunct Phantom Films, Vikas Bahl, was accused by an unnamed survivor who quit the production house after the incident and remains unemployed to this day. HuffPost India published her account of having been sexually assaulted by the director of feminist drama Queen, back in 2015. Since then Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao (actors of Queen), and Hrithik Roshan (who stars in his next film Super 30) spoke out in support of the survivor, while two other women corroborated his predatory behaviour to the press.
Phantom Films was dissolved the night before the HuffPost India interview was published, and Amazon Prime Video soon dropped Bahl from a show he was to direct for the platform. He has also been ousted from the promotions of Super 30. As of Monday October 22, he is back on the director’s chair, in the absence of an official FIR against him.
Siddharth Bhatia, editor
The Wire co-founder was accused by two women Reema Sanyal and Bharti Shukla for lewd and persistent behaviour. However, Bhatia later issued a statement claiming that their testimonies were planted by the right-wing media to soil The Wire‘s image and that neither of those two women actually worked at DNA and may not actually exist.
Wild allegations about me are doing the rounds on Twitter. ?@thewire_in? too has been dragged into it. Here’s my statement about it. I would also urge fellow professional journalists not to fall for rumour and innuendo. pic.twitter.com/6J4uCIOwnv
— Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) October 8, 2018
On October 17, Bhatia composed an official statement announcing that he has filed police complaints against the Twitter handles accusing him of abuse ten days ago. Charting the discrepancies in their accounts, he further claimed that none of the accusers have since come forward with more details, compelling him to hand the investigation over to the Cyber Cell of Mumbai Police.
I have filed a police complaint to investigate the handles which made false claims against me over 10 days ago. We requested them to come forward with more details. So far no one has. pic.twitter.com/QeP2IpBjAj
— Sidharth Bhatia (@bombaywallah) October 18, 2018
CP Surendran, journalist
Poet, novelist, and journalist C.P. Surendran was accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, and sexist comments by 11 women who have worked with him throughout his career. It was reported that he inappropriately touched women whom he has worked with, made jokes on rape victims, among other things. Joanna Lobo, a features writer at DNA, raised the matter of Surendran’s behaviour with the organisation’s ICC.
Another journalist recounted her experience with Surendran, where he used a pick-up line on her, continued pursuing her despite her refusal, and asked if they could keep each other company that night. Surendran has denied all allegations and has said it’s “the lynch mob at work.”
Vinod Dua, journalist
Documentary filmmaker and Gulabi Gang director Nishtha Jain accused Vinod Dua, consulting editor at The Wire and the host of Jan Gan Man Ki Baat, of sexual harassment and stalking her back in 1989. The filmmaker who had applied for a job at the show he then hosted, became an immediate target of abuse that continued for a while. It culminated in a non-consensual kiss, long after Dua habitually waited outside the office for her when she was working late and she finally agreed to talk to him, expecting an apology.
Earlier this week, the Network of Women in Media, condemned The Wire for letting veteran and accused journalist Vinod Dua use his show to describe the allegations against him as “muck” and malign the watershed movement in general. On Saturday, The Wire announced that an independent, external committee headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court will be investigating the allegation, to which both parties have consented. The committee will be headed by former Supreme Court Justice Aftab Alam. Additionally, Dua’s programme has been cancelled until the committee declares its verdict, and the episode described earlier has been taken off The Wire‘s platforms.
KR Sreenivas, editor
The Times of India Resident Editor KR Sreenivas, has stepped down from his post following accusations of sexual harassment by at least 7 journalists. Earlier, the media house had called for a committee to look into the allegations, sending Sreenivas on administrative leave. All the accusers sent a petition to the Times Group’s Managing Director Vineet Jain, adding, “We hope to see action taken. This is The Times of India’s moment to walk its talk.”
Anurag Verma, journalist
Former HuffPost reporter Anurag Verma apologised for his behaviour after several Twitter users accused him of inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment. In a series of tweets, he owned up to his Snapchat habits, “I have been problematic. The content that I thought was ‘funny’ at the time was actually not,” he said. “I’m sorry, I have made many of you uncomfortable with my crass photos and videos that I thought would pass as a humour. I have also used the ‘send nudes’ term very loosely. For me, it was a meme back then but I didn’t realise the damage I was doing by sending it to people,” he wrote on Twitter.
Mayank Jain, journalist
Former Scroll reporter Mayank Jain stands accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct. He earlier declined to comment after The Wire journalist Anoo Bhuyan first called him out on Twitter. Later, he resigned as Business Standard‘s principal correspondent following multiple allegations of sexual assault being levelled against him.
Joydeep Basu, editor
Reema Sanyal called out The Times Group for harbouring predatory men and named TOI‘s editorial director Joydeep “Jojo” Bose culpable in protecting at least one such reporter. She herself claimed to have left the organisation in disgust and alleged that Bose indulged in locker-room talk.
Her allegation was later echoed by Malini Bhupta who accused Bose (and the organisation at large) of shielding the likes of editor Basistha Basu. She claimed Basu’s favourite line was “If I find a mistake in the page I’ll take your panties off.”
His favourite line was “if i find a mistake in the page I will take your panties off”. It is painful to do this but i think it needs to be done.
— Malini (@malinibhupta) October 9, 2018
Several others corroborated that Bose and other high ranking members of the organisation have protected their “favourite editors” from sexual harassment complaints for decades, and are known to create situations that force victims to quit.
Satadru Ojha, editor
Satadru Ojha, the editor of Times of India supplement Calcutta Times, has been accused by three former female employees of inappropriate behaviour and sexual misconduct.
One of them, Nasreen Khan, accused him of threatening to put her out of work unless she “pleases him” or keeps him “happy”. After she lodged a complaint, her stories were reportedly pushed back from the front page, her interviews delayed, and her connections in the entertainment industry destroyed.
Ojha said the police and the court had later found him innocent and cleared all charges against him.
Akhil Kumar, journalist
Akhil Kumar, a reporter and multimedia producer at The Wire, was explicitly named and accused of physical assault by two independent anonymous sources, who noticed his predatory pattern of aggressively touching and emotionally degrading women besides coercing them to have sex with him. One of the survivors alleged that the more she resisted, the more aggressive he became until she was left covered with bruises. But she chose to stay silent out of fear of being victim-shamed.
— harnidh (@chiaseedpuddin) October 10, 2018
Prashant Jha, editor
Politics Editor and Delhi Chief of Bureau of the Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha, stepped down from both positions on Monday, following accusations of sending inappropriate messages to a female journalist. The action against Jha marked the first concrete step in the #MeToo storm brewing in Indian newsrooms.
Gautam Adhikari, editor
Journalist Sandhya Menon came forward with her experiences of sexual harassment at the hands of Gautam Adhikari, former Editor in Chief of DNA in Mumbai and former executive editor of the Times of India. He was later accused of kissing at least three women without consent. He has resigned as a senior fellow of the Center for American Progress (CAP), following the allegations. However, he claimed having no recollection of this incident or any of the alleged incidents, Adhikari told The Wire in an email.
Meghnad Bose, journalist
The Quint‘s senior reporter who has won several awards for his work on the gender beat, has been accused of rampant objectification, passing lewd comments about women habitually, inappropriately touching them, and harassing them by his peers at Asian College of Journalism (ACJ). Journalist Poulomi Das posted a thread on Twitter, outlining one instance of harassment in particular. He also allegedly routinely ‘rated’ women based on their looks and body shamed them. Bose later issued an apology on Facebook.
Fahad Shah, journalist
The editor of Kashmir-based magazine The Kashmirwalla, Fahad Shah, was accused of molestation a woman and her friend at a party last year. The woman who put up the Facebook post identified as a former girlfriend of Shah, claiming he touched her inappropriately and later locked himself in the washroom with her friend, among other things. Shah claimed this was a “vilification campaign” against him.
Advertising and marketing
— #MeTooIndia (@IndiaMeToo) October 20, 2018
Suhel Seth, marketing consultant
The author and socialite has been accused by multiple women including writer Ira Trivedi, of sexual assault that involved gross misuse of power. One of the accusers, filmmaker Natashja Rathore, came forward with her account of Seth taking advantage of her and taking her home without informing her. “You then threw yourself at me although I was clearly uncomfortable. You shoved your tongue in my throat even when I resisted — I whacked your head and said ‘behave yourself’. You put your hand into my kurta and grabbed my breast,” she wrote in a Twitter post, which generated further corroboration of Seth’s predatory behaviour around young women.
Journalist Mandakini Gahlot also recalled how Seth had once forcibly kissed her in Goa after she refused his invitation to check out his cottage suite, which had a Jacuzzi in it.
New allegations were levelled against Suhel Seth by a second woman, Jasmine Divekar (44) who was allegedly groped by him in 2017 at a friend’s house in Bandra, Mumbai. Model and former Bigg Boss participant Diandra Soares also recounted on Wednesday, her account of being assaulted at a fashion week after party, “I was dancing on a couch and out of nowhere Suhel Seth shoved his f**king tongue down my mouth. I immediately bit his tongue with all my might and anger. Oh, I also grabbed his b*lls and squeezed them hard, refusing to let go,” she added.
He was laid off by the Tata Group who terminating their contract with the adman hired to rebrand the company after the Cyrus Mistry controversy, takinga stand against those who routinely proposition women to their discomfort, at the workplace.
Kartik Iyer, Praveen Das and Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, advertsing professionals
Renowned ad men Kartik Iyer, Praveen Das and Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, accused of sexual harassment and creating a toxic work environment for women employees on October 10, resigned Wednesday. Parent company Dentsu Aegis Network said that they always believed in providing a safe environment at our workplaces which is free from any kind of harassment. “We have a zero tolerance policy towards any kind of harassment at our workplaces,” the statement said.
An anonymous account had mentioned CEO of Happy mcgarrybowen, Kartik Iyer, exclaiming in the conference room that “his current biggest fantasy was to be surrounded on all side by naked women so that he could nuzzle his head into a wall of breasts.” He reportedly also harassed another woman, stalking her at a party and following it up with verbal abuse. Yet another called him a “textbook rapist.”
Along with Iyer, Managing Director Praveen Das, Senior Creative Director of Happy Creative Services Bodhisatwa Dasgupta and National Creative Director of iProspect India Dinesh Swamy stepped down following similar allegations. A woman accused Dasgupta on Medium for preying on her when she was a 20-year old intern, following which he issued an apology on Medium. The survivor stated that she was friends with his girlfriend at the time, and was sexually harassed by him on her birthday. Swamy allegedly made inappropriate jokes and thought it was acceptable to tickle a female colleague.
Vibhu Sharma, music entrepreneur
The independent music scene came under the radar as well, with allegations of rape surfacing against Vibhu Sharma, a manager at Impressario restaurants, and who has also been a stage and project manager for many music festivals. The woman accused Sharma of refusing to take “no” for an answer at a party in Manipal and proceeding to hit, rape and later threaten her against lodging a complaint.
Impressario has issued a statement through its official spokesperson:
“We are shocked and horrified to learn the recent allegation against one of our employees. As a company, it is our constant endeavour to ensure that all our stakeholders, employees, customers and associates, enjoy a safe working environment. We are taking this allegation very seriously and have formed an internal special committee comprising of women to investigate this incident thoroughly. We request anyone who has any direct information relating to this or any similar matter to reach out to the committee with utmost confidence so that appropriate action can be taken against any such behaviour in absence of a direct complaint.”
Fine, visual and performing arts
Subrata Bhowmick, graphic artist
A co-founder of a social organisation, Sonal Jain has accused veteran graphic artist Subrata Bhowmick of sexually harassing her when he served as an advisory board member in the organisation she worked at the time.
Jatin Das, painter
Nisha Bora has accused Nandita Das’ father, Jatin Das of sexual misbehavior. Bora spoke about the first time she met Jatin in 2004 in Delhi. Jatin, a painter by profession, asked Bora to assist him in organizing his work material. Bora recalls that nothing untoward happened when she first met Jatin. However, when she met him at his studio, he tried to grope her and forcefully kiss her on the lips.
“I visited Jatin in his studio, which was in Khidki Village. I don’t recall the time of day, but that it was well within daylight hours. He poured himself some whiskey; offered me one too, but I refused. The next thing I knew, he attempted to grab me. I wriggled out of his embrace, flustered. Then he did it again. This time, he managed a clumsy kiss on my lips,” Bora said in her Facebook post.
Soon after Bora called Jatin out, another woman named Anushree Majumdar accused Jatin Das of sexual harassment. Majumdar revealed that in 2006, when she was just of college, she met Das for the first time. She said that she was working as a project manager at the First Monsoon Festival and had to pick up a painting from his studio in this regard.
Majumdar then recounted that Das then almost forced her to quit her current job and work for him immediately. When she went to his studio to pick up a painting, she said that he “stood too close” and “asked strange questions.” Majumdar then revealed that when she reached the festival later, Das called her and told her that he was coming only to see her and remained insistent that she should work for him.
Pablo Bartholomew, photographer
Renowed photographer who has worked with the likes of Satyajit Ray was recently named by an anonymous female journalist who claimed to have interviewed him for an article some years ago. Bartholomew reportedly turned persistent after the interview, calling and pressurising her to accompany him on trips, adding that he allegedly used his power to discredit her in front of her employers.
MJ Akbar, politician+journalist
Former journalist MJ Akbar, now the Minister of State for External Affairs, was accused by US journalist Priya Ramani last year in a Vogue piece titled ‘To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world.’
She didn’t name him then, but on Monday, she came forward with the identity of her harasser, who was already an extremely influential editor by then. “I was 23, you were 43,” the tweet read, as she recounted how the founding editor of The Telegraph had made her feel uncomfortable in a hotel room at Oberoi, Mumbai, during a prospective job interview.
Later, The Wire published journalist Ghazala Wahab’s account, five days after she opened the floodgates on the former Asian Age editor with a tweet, “I wonder when the floodgates will open about @mjakbar.” A truly spine-chilling account of the extent of misogyny and abuse that working women are subject to, the first-person account read,
The next evening, he called me in his cabin. I knocked and entered. He was standing next to the door and before I could react he shut the door, trapping me between his body and the door. I instinctively flinched, but he held me and bent to kiss me. With my mouth clamped shut, I struggled to turn my face to one side. The jostling continued, without much success. I had no space to manoeuvre. Fear had rendered me speechless. As my body was pushing against the door, at some point he let me go. Tear-stricken, I ran out. Out of the office. Out of the Surya Kiran building and into the parking lot. Finding a lonely spot, I sat down on the pavement and cried.
After the Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi called for an investigation into the allegations, Congress turned up the pressure by demanding his resignation. Earlier this week, Akbar resigned but not before slapping Ramani with a defamation suit, armed with a 97-member legal team, despite facing multiple allegations from at least 20 women so far. The next hearing is on October 31.
Fairoz Khan, politician
Fairoz Khan, the national president of the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) stepped down from his post after charges of sexual harassment were leveled against him. The NSUI is the student wing of the Congress party. Khan submitted his resignation on Monday evening, saying that he quit keeping the party’s interest in mind. Sources told PTI that Congress president Rahul Gandhi has accepted Khan’s resignation.
Literatti and academia
Giridhar Madras, engineering professor
World-renowned chemical engineer and senior academic at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, was asked to go on compulsory retirement, as a result of abuse of his power and influence. Promising to take strong action against Giridhar Madras, after a female student accused him of making inappropriate remarks and relentless phone calls, the board on Wednesday notified the press of their decision, following an investigation by the ICC. Madras, a recipient of the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology, and a J.C. Bose National Fellow, is reportedly among the world’s top 1% of scientists in his field. His achievements were removed the school’s website although it is unclear if he will receive retirement benefits.
Kiran Nagarkar, writer
The first accuser alleged that the writer had harassed her when they met in a hotel room for an interview. The woman’s account detailed a pattern of behavior where Nagarkar inched closer to her, then pulled her in for a forced hug when the interview was completed, fingering her bra strap. Another woman journalist recounted how he sat too close to and insisted on a hug after she was done interviewing him. The third woman Shilpi Guha also had a similar story. After she discussed the incident with her editor, she left the venue immediately, and they decided not to pursue the interview either.
Chintan Ruparel, Terribly Tiny Tales co-founder
Popular flash fiction platform Terribly Tiny Tales took a hit in the #MeToo storm when an anonymous blogger on Medium detailed an alleged sexual encounter with chief content officer Chintan Ruparel and senior members of the group making light of a complaint lodged by one female workshop attendee, whose feedback form stated that she had been made uncomfortable by a male team member staring at her.
Ruparel later stepped down and the group issued a statement on Twitter.
(1/3) TTT is not a one-person organization. It never was. We are a community. A platform. We will remain faithful to you – the reader and writer that has loved the work we do. Stay with us. We will fix this.
(See thread) pic.twitter.com/ZN9EKJ8mcc
— TTT (@terriblytiny) October 10, 2018
Sadanand Menon, professor
Cultural critic Sadanand Menon was one of the names on Raya Sarkar’s list last year, who had accused him of sexually harassing her at SPACES, an art space in Chennai. According to latest reports, he will not be teaching his course at the ACJ in the forthcoming academic year.
Chetan Bhagat, writer
Writer and columnist Chetan Bhagat was accused by a Twitter user of misconduct and sending her inappropriate messages. Bhagat, married at the time, later apologised for his behaviour over a Facebook post, saying that he had not engaged in a physical relationship with the woman.
Later on Tuesday, he took to social media to justify how his actions and words don’t qualify as harassment and tried to subtly imply that the women in question wrote erotica which is what egged him on to be brash with her.
The matter, however, does not end here. When several other women including contemporary writer Ira Trivedi brought up similar allegations against Bhagat over the past week, he took to maligning them unscrupulously on Twitter. Trivedi, having none of it, penned a piece for the Quint, attaching excerpts of email correspondence to prove how persistent Bhagat can be. She expressly warns the author against further false mud-slinging against the survivors and herself saying, “His attempts to kiss me and proposition me and his groping of my friend amounts to offences under Sections 509 and 354A of the IPC. His tweets and online statements about my allegations fall under sections of Sections 354D and Section 503 of the IPC. Further he has selectively produced my personal e-mail trail in a manner which is completely out of context and has made a public statement stating that I am trying to run a motivated, fake attack and smear campaign against him.”
Aditi Mittal, comedian
In a first, comedienne Aditi Mittal was named and accused of kissing fellow stand-up performer Kaneez Surkha on the mouth at a public event two years ago. She recounted how it left her without any agency or choice, and made her feel deeply humiliated, confused and hurt. When she brought up the incident later, Mittal soon became hostile towards her, and finally gaslighted her, denying even kissing her.
After Kaneez posted about it on Twitter, however, Mittal issued an apology on Wednesday evening saying that it wasn’t a forceful kiss, but a peck on Kaneez’s lips and “part of the act.” She also added that her intentions were not sexual in nature.
— Kaneez Surka (@kaneezsurka) October 10, 2018
Utsav Chakraborty and AIB, comedians
A few days after Datta came out with her account, a group of women levied allegations of sexual misconduct against comedian Utsav Chakraborty, claiming to be on the receiving end of numerous lewd text messages and unsolicited d**k pics from the AIB comedian over the last year. He has even been accused of soliciting nudes from these women, and sending d**k pics to at least one minor over Twitter.
AIB which had featured Utsav on some of their videos, issued a rote statement, claiming to de-list all their work where he was prominently involved, while Utsav himself tried to justify his behaviour with flimsy excuses and playing the victim over 26 tweets.
Later, AIB asked co-founder Tanmay Bhat to resign after it transpired that he was in the know all along. They also placed member Gursimran Khamba on a “temporary leave of absence” after allegations were brought up against him as well. Hotstar said that it would cancel production of Season 3 of ‘On Air With AIB’ with “immediate effect”. Jio MAMI Film Festival later announced that they would drop AIB’s film Chintu ka Birthday from their lineup.
“Safe workplace is a right; let’s not make it a privilege”
Qrius got in touch with Martha Farrell Foundation which conducted a study on how active Local Committees are in addressing sexual harassment in the informal job sector. According to Nandita Bhatt who led the study, only 29% Indian districts confirmed the existence of Local Committees, out of 655 districts in India, while 56% chose not to reply to an RTI query about the same. The study suggests a rather slipshod implementation of the 2013 Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act across India, which categorically mandates the constitution of the “Local Committee” to receive complaints of sexual harassment from women.
Bhatt spoke to Qrius saying, “It is apparent that the Central Government needs to come up with a better monitoring system for the Act. The Act provides protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints. With absence of LCs in many parts of the country and LC members unaware about their roles and responsibilities, it is needless to say women workers continue to lack the necessary support to prevent sexual harassment at workplace.”
Considering how Local Committees are sometimes the only recourse for working women in the informal sector which constitutes 94% of the female workforce, the meaningful implementation of this Act is a crucial step towards their dignity and safety at the workplace.
In other news
KWAN Entertainment founder and celebrity manager Anirban Das Blah tried to commit suicide this week, after he was asked to resign following allegations of sexual harassment. Later, aspiring Actor Meira Omar came out with an account of her tryst with Blah. “He even went ahead and told me about a specific case where a a girl reached out to him and she was gorgeous, but too timid and shy. So he locked her in his balcony in that same Juhu apartment, where we were sitting and forced her to masturbate,” she told The Times of India.
Last week, several fellows and interns at Teach For India spoke out against the organisation’s gaps in addressing mental and sexual harassment at managerial levels. Two days after several former and current employees brought up instances of “bullying and sexually-coloured comments to inappropriate touching,” three staff members were sent on administrative leave pending investigation. CEO Shaheen Mistri termed this a wake-up call.
Three reputed institutions of performing arts were the latest to come under scrutiny over multiple allegations brought forward against the powerful men who run them.
Around 13 cases of sexual assault allegations against members of the faculty and student body at Film and Television Insitute of India, Pune, have been largely dismissed or addressed non-committally. Keeping that in mind, a survivor (2016 batch) shot a letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Monday, accusing the institute director Bhupendra Kainthola of ridiculing and intimidating her for reporting sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. She also wrote to the internal complaints committee (ICC), the information and broadcasting ministry and chairperson of FTII asking for Kainthola’s resignation, at least until the probe is over. Matters worsened later this week when it came to light that Kainthola had divulged the survivor’s name to a TOI reporter, bringing his motives to malign the woman into question.
Chennai’s Music Academy, a proponent of Carnatic music which has remained insular to complaints against its patriarchal hegemony so far, dropped seven musicians from their December cultural season lineup, in the wake of #MeToo allegations against N Ravikiran, OS Thyagarajan and Mannargudi A Easwaran, Srimushnam V Raja Rao, Nagai Sriram, R Ramesh and Thiruvarur Vaidyanathan. N Murali, the President of the Academy, told the press that the organisers of the Marghazi festival were in solidarity with the survivors of sexual harassment and the ongoing #MeToo movement at large. Murali said that the Academy took the decision after “independently talking to unbiased members in the music world”, despite several of the accused denying the allegations.
After students of Symbiosis Centre of Media and Communication, both former and present, wrote to the authorities sharing their harrowing accounts of harassment by some faculty members including director Anupam Sidhartha, he was sent on leave based on an internal committee’s report following the accusations, pending further inquiry.
The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) on Monday said it will issue show cause notices to actor Alok Nath and actor-director Sajid Khan, who have been accused of sexual harassment and violation. As the movement grows louder in the south, another Kannada star Arjun Sarja was accused by actress Sruthi Hariharan, following which Sarja filed a defamation case of Rs 5 crore against the latter. Another Sandalwood figure, director Ravi Srivatsa was accused by Sanjjanaa Galrani of harassment. However, the Malayalam film industry demonstrated how untouched it is by the entire movement. During a press conference convened by the Women in Cinema Collective, to discuss the misogyny in the industry and how the artists’ collective AMMA has failed its actresses, the panelists encountered hostility, harassment and were shamed by male members of the press.
In a few days it will have been a month since the first #MeToo testimony emerged. Although the scope and magnitude of the allegations may seemingly range from “harmless flirtation” to “blurred lines” to outright physical abuse, this is an oppressive reality which bases itself on too many male privileges, too many things that are taken for granted, a gross lack of understanding what consent means and a state of largely internalised misogyny that women are waking up from. It is time to stand up to the way workplaces have gotten used to functioning, and change it collectively.
Qrius will update this list as and when more names emerge.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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