By Prarthana Mitra
Note: Here’s a list of all those who have been accused. Qrius will update this list as and when more names emerge.
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 Kavanaugh’s confirmation, 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 in positions of power. From Vikas Bahl and Rajat Kapoor, to Kailash Kher, Alok Nath and Abhijeet, 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.
Female journalists took to Twitter to report on decades of abuse of power from their male counterparts, even accusing a minister in Narendra 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.
Below is a repository of events, accusations and responses sourced from various media websites.
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 remained 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.
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 has also been an influential editor. “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 the Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai, during a prospective job interview.
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.
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.
Fahad Shah, journalist
Fahad Shah, the editor of Kashmir-based magazine The Kashmirwalla, 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.
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.”
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.
Prashant Jha, editor
Jha, Hindustan Times’ political editor and Delhi bureau chief, 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.
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 even 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
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
Bose, a senior reporter at The Quint and 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. 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.
Qrius will update this list as and when more names emerge.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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