Here Is Everything You Need To Know About India’s #MeToo Campaign!

9 min

The memory of October 2017 is still fresh when the two-word phrase surfaced on the internet as actress Alyssa Milano invited those who have experienced sexual harassment to respond with “Me too” on Twitter.

A tweet, that later built up to become an online campaign cum movement that supports the survivors of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. The very same #MeToo movement has now taken the Indian social media by storm.

In a shocking turn of events last month, Bollywood actress and former Miss India Tanushree Dutta alleged well-known actor and Social worker Nana Patekar of harassing her on the sets of a film in 2008. Since then, a journalist who was present on the sets in 2008 has also vouched for Miss Dutta’s story. What followed was a plethora of reactions from everywhere while the mainstream Bollywood slyly and typically kept itself distant from the entire predicament.

We really admire her courage. Because it’s not at all easy to call out powerful and influential men in a misogynistic, patriarchal setup like the Bollywood industry.

Soon after that, on Thursday, the social media was flooded with new accounts of similar harassment or misconduct incidents against fellow colleagues, writers, editors, directors, comedians after a writer (Mahima Kukreja) accused a well-known comic and YouTube star, Utsav Chakraborty, of sexual misconduct. This was, in essence, the start of India’s #Metoo movement that gave out a clear message to all offenders and harassers that their #TimesUp!

The allegations on Utsav Chakraborty did not stop there. Many other young women came out and stood behind Miss Kukreja to confront and call him out for his past actions.

Utsav Chakraborty has been working with the prominent stand-up comedy group- AIB who later released an online statement apologizing for not taking action against Utsav. It is not the first time that an employer has chosen to ignore an employee’s lewd and improper actions because of the strangely ingrained idea of ‘these things happen’ in most of them. But it was particularly surprising and ironic to find out that authority at AIB who claim to be staunch feminists chose to not take any action against him.

Read the full account here.

Read this article by a comedian Preeti Das on how Standup Comedy community in India has sexism, bigotry, misogyny, and power dynamics in its roots.

Amongst many other comedians who are being accused of being sexism, misogyny, and inappropriate behavior is also Kanan Gill, an extremely famous and sought-after comedian.

Several fan girls have called him out for misbehaving and being creepily close.

His apology:

Please Note:

It is imperative that we understand that these allegations against Kanan do not fall under the definition of sexual harassment. It’s wrong and he should be called out, yes. But we must make a fair distinction. This is one extremely crucial aspect of this movement that needs to be pointed out. It has to do with the hysteria around all these accusations and our never-ending ignorance. Every experience matters but is also very important that we mark an especially clear distinction between which is sexual harassment and which is not. If that line fades, it will not only lead to the trivialization of major issues but also derail our entire movement.

Case in point: The distinction between Utsav Chakraborty case and the Kanan Gill case. Utsav’s is a direct case of sexual harassment while Kanak’s is not.

And that’s exactly why all these allegations have also set off a debate on how many of those accounts actually come under the definition of sexual harassment. So, before this article proceeds to report several other allegations and horrifying accounts; read this and understand it once and for all what sexual harassment AS PER THE LAW means.

Here we go:

The Sexual Harassment at The Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013:

Under the Act, sexual harassment includes:

a) Physical contact and advances. (like touching inappropriately)

b) A demand or request for sexual favors. (Send nudes)

c) Making sexually colored remarks. (sexist jokes or misogynist humor)

d) Showing pornography.

e) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code:

A man committing any of the following acts—

1. Physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or

2. A demand or request for sexual favors; or

3. Showing pornography against the will of a woman; or

4. Making sexually colored remarks
shall be guilty of the offense of sexual harassment.

On Oct. 06, a former crew member of Phantom Films accused one of the founding members Vikas Bahl of molesting her in May 2015. Bahl was the director of 2014 blockbuster film Queen, extensively commended for its feminist theme. She also said that she had confided in Anurag Kashyap but he didn’t take any action.

Phantom Films was founded by filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl, and Madhu Mantena. It was dissolved just a day before the Huffington Post interview was published in which the survivor made these allegations while choosing to be anonymous.

What’s sad and important to point out here is that yet again the dissolution of the firm was reactionary and no step was taken by the fellow founders whilst they were aware of Bahl’s misdoings.

Whatever happened was wrong. We didn’t handle it well, we failed. I cannot blame anyone but myself. But now we are determined to do better. We believe her completely. She has our undying support. What Bahl has done is horrifying. We are already on our path of course correction and will do everything in our capacity to fix it.

– Anurag Kashyap

In another account, a woman anonymously shared screenshots of a conversation between her and Chetan Bhagat, in which the author says he likes her and attempts to flirt with her. He even ignored her protests that he is married and continued talking. The author later released an apology statement on Facebook.

Another writer known by the name Rameez was accused of behaving inappropriately with several women.

Several senior male journalists and editors, including KR Sreenivas, Kiran Nagarkar, Mayank Jain, Gautam Adhikari, Prashant Jha, Anurag Verma, and CP Surendran have also been accused of sexual misconduct by women on social media.

Journalist and writer Sandhya Menon alleged that senior Times of India editor KR Sreenivas and ex-editor-in-chief of DNA, Mumbai Gautham Adhikari misbehaved with her several years ago. Several other women also came forward to share their stories about KR Sreenivas’ sexual misconduct. Writer and professor of journalism Sonora Jha also accused Gautham Adhikari of kissing her forcibly.

Adhikari said he had no recollection of the incident.

The principal correspondent at the Business Standard, Mayank Jain, was called a “sexual predator” by reporter Anoo Bhuyan. Journalist and Feminism in India editor Japleen Pasricha also reported an incident with Jain where he made unwelcome sexual advances at her.

Several women also alleged Anurag Verma, a former editor at Huffington Post, of asking women for nude pictures.

The National Political Editor/ Chief of Bureau of the Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha, was also accused by a former employee on Twitter saying he had made her feel “uncomfortable”.

Fahad Shah, Editor in Chief of TKW Magazine was directly accused of molestation by more than one woman.

If all these disturbing accounts of harassment weren’t enough, another shocking accusation came against the filmmaker and critically acclaimed actor Rajat Kapoor of unsolicited sexual advances.

A lot of people have however argued that the conversation in the screenshot does not pertain to sexual misconduct.

The accusatory post was promptly followed by Rajat Kapoor’s apology.

There was another anonymous accusation against one of the most celebrated singers of India- Kailash Kher.

If you are thinking that this menace is limited to the Entertainment and Media industries, think again. Many accounts of sexual misconduct at the workplace in several other industries have also come up. And from what it looks like, this twitter outrage is the only tip of the iceberg.

The plague extends to supposedly honorable men at the judiciary as well. Here is an account of how a High Court judge misbehaved with an interviewer.

Ishrath Nawaz, an Advertising veteran who joined Publicis as ECD earlier this year, was also accused of harassment by the Twitter user Kalamwali Bai.

Raj Kurup, Founder, Creativeland Asia has been accused by SEVERAL women of misusing his power to stalk and harass his employees.

An entrepreneur cum investor also joined the ‘elite’ list of harassers as this Twitter user accused Abhishek Agarwal of unwelcomed sexts.

The list is never-ending. Even this article was edited and re-edited an uncountable number of times because new names kept coming up even in the limited number of hours spent in writing this article.

Journalist Sheena has been compiling and reporting all the accusations that have come up in a Twitter thread.

We have also published a page with live updates on all the accusations for your ease of reference. We take this matter very seriously and want all the perpetrators to be named and shamed. You can read the updates on our live page here.

One can’t help but imagine that if it took a popular actress and former Miss India winner, 10 years, 10 long and excruciating years to go public with her ordeal of sexual harassment at workplace, then, how much time would it take a normal citizen with no influence at all to report an incident like this? Forever, perhaps?

Now, with this context in mind, reflect and contemplate the importance and consequence of the ‘me too movement’. Because really, time’s up.

Kaushal Piruka
I write, because I can't dance.