By Prarthana Mitra
Note: Qrius will update this list as and when more names emerge.
As the outrage over social media entered a new day, fresh allegations were levied against prominent figures from the film industry, while several others came forward with their own accounts against many of those already accused, including Kailash Kher, MJ Akbar and Alok Nath.
Alumni of the Symbiosis Media School also took to social media to share harrowing accounts of harassment by some faculty members and their seniors, following which SCMC authorities issued an apology and promised an investigation by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). The movement attained new dimensions last evening when comedian Kaneez Surka accused fellow comedian Aditi Mittal of forcefully kissing her on stage two years back, and later gaslighting her when Surka confronted her about it.
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.
Women journalists took to Twitter to report on decades of abuse of power from their male counterparts, even accusing a Minister in Modi’s cabinet of sexual harassment. While some allegations have led to resignations, others have started important conversation about what sexual harassment at the workplace constitutes.
Here’s a list of all those who have been accused. Qrius will update this list as and when more names emerge.
Akhil Kumar, journalist
Another reporter from 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 covered with bruises. But she chose to stay silent out of fear of being victim-shamed.
— harnidh (@chiaseedpuddin) October 10, 2018
Ashish Patil, talent manager
Allegations have emerged against 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 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.”
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
MJ Akbar, politician
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.
On Wednesday, 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.
On Tuesday, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi called for an investigation into the allegations, thus becoming the first government official to recognise the growing movement. The Congress demanded that Akbar must either explain the allegations or resign from his post.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
KR Sreenivas, editor
The Times of India Resident Editor KR Sreenivas, was first accused by one woman journalist, but according to latest reports, that number went up to 7 as soon as the media house 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The scope and magnitude of the allegations may seem like it ranges from “harmless flirtation” to “blurred lines” to blatant physical abuse, but this a 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.
Qrius will update this list as and when more names emerge.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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