How the #MeToo bug has hit the high and mighty
New Delhi, Oct 9: The #MeToo wave that started in America, taking down Oscar awardee Hollywood filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, has finally seems to be mustering a momentum in India. The country is experiencing wave of the #MeToo movement, in which women across the world have levelled sexual harassment charges that has forced many powerful men out of their jobs.
In recent days, Bollywood figures, a comedian, a best-selling author and top journalists have all found themselves accused of abusing their positions to behave improperly towards women. Let us have a look at those people who have been accused as part of the #MeToo campaign in India:
Hindustan Times political editor Prashant Jha
Prashant Jha is one of the first high-profile figures named to step down from his role since the #MeToo movement hit the Indian media. A former Hindustan Times correspondent, Avantika Mehta had accused Jha of harassment. She posted screenshots of Whatsapp conversations between her and Jha on Twitter. Mehta later clarified that the conversations were from 2017, when she was no longer an employee of the Hindustan Times.
AIB Founders Tanmay Bhat, Gursimran Khamba and Actor Rajat Kapoor
India's leading comic content-production house, All India Bakchod (AIB), said two of its four co-founders will be stepping down until further notice for their roles in alleged cases of sexual misconduct. AIB co-founder and CEO, Tanmay Bhat, quit in light of his inaction even after a woman accused a former colleague, Utsav Chakraborty, of sexual assault. On Monday, a survivor who wished to stay anonymous accused Gursimran Khamba from popular comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB) of harassing her back in 2015-16. He reportedly made unwelcome advances towards her on a couple of occasions. Calling her up in an inebriated state, he reportedly "emotionally blackmailed and emotionally abused her".
Bollywood actor Rajat Kapoor
Bollywood actor and filmmaker Rajat Kapoor has been accused of harassing two women. A journalist claimed Kapoor asked her if she was "as sexy as (she) sounds" and if she'd tell him her "vital stats." An assistant director said he persistently asked her to shoot with him in an empty house. Then, a third woman said Kapoor called her 17 times and confronted her after they exchanged contacts for work.
Filmaker Vikas Bahl
Bollywood director Vikas Bahl (of Queen fame) was accused of forcing himself upon a crew member in May 2015. Subsequently, Phantom Films, a production house he set up with three others-Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, and Madhu Mantena-was dissolved. Following the revelation, Bahl was reportedly also dropped from a show he was supposed to direct for Amazon Prime Video. Ever since Bahl was accused of sexual molestation, the Queen director seems to be losing out on various projects. Recent news reports in Pinkvilla state that Bahl might have been ousted from the sets of Ranveer Singh starrer 83.
Mobasher Jawed Akbar, better known as MJ Akbar
MJ Akbar, minister of state for external affairs, has been accused of conducting inappropriate interviews in hotel rooms with young women in his previous role as a media veteran. Journalist Priya Ramani, who wrote a piece for Vogue India in October 2017 titled "To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world," tweeted that the nameless "celebrity editor" whose conduct she had described in the piece was indeed Akbar, who was one of India's best-known newspaper editors.
It is not rare in India that women are harassed sexually by their male colleagues or seniors at the workplace on a daily basis. However, such incidents hide behind the shadow of anger and guilt and get buried under years of silence.
However, it was back in 2012 that India's abysmal record on sexual violence had sought an international attention ever since the Dec 16 gang-rape incident took place which had sparked nationwide protests. The incident had led to tougher sentences and reforms in the country's rape laws but sexual crime remains rampant.
But the major question arises here is for vast numbers of women, their life remains grim. They don't have access to Twitter to speak out for themselves and seek justice. Where and when will these voices be heard? While it is tremendously important that India's MeToo moment happens and it is happening, it is also equally important to find voices which are not in urban spaces.