By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Breaking the monotony of seasonal news feed a ‘new season’ is now dominating in Indian media. This is allegation of sexual abuse in work place against celebs that are from the world of cinema, journalism and politics.
In recent past, two high profile cases of sexual abuse were reported in the media; one against Tarun Tejpal, Tehalka magazine Editor and other against Mehmood Farooqi, the co-director of the movie ‘Pepli live’.
The case against Tejpal is at a hearing stage in the Supreme Court with allegation that he had put his hands inside the pantie of his female colleague while coming down from the lift at a five star hotel in Goa. He was arrested for such charges and now on bail.
The second case is against Mehmood Farooqi with the allegation that in a drunken state, he had asked the victim to suck his private parts. The lower court has booked him on such charges and sent him to jail. Later, the Supreme Court exonerated him from all such charges as it found that the act was consensual in nature.
Now there is a long list of Indian celebs that are facing similar allegations from women who have come out in open to say that they have been victim of sexual abuse at work by their men bosses. Thanks to online women movement ‘Me Too,’ that allegation against some high profile personalities has come into limelight with many women narrating their horrifying account through this social media platform.
First let’s start with the journalist turned politician, M J Akbar, a Union Minister who is in the eye of the storm these days. As many as seven women journalists have come up so far with allegation of sexual harassment done by the former editor of ‘The Asian Age’ with at least one on record, alleging that he had molested her.
Another high profile journalist, Prashant Jha, Chief of Bureau and Political Editor of Hindustan Times had to resign his job after the allegations of sexual misconduct done by him on some of his female colleagues.
Two women have accused Journalist, Sidharth Bhatia, the founder Editor of ‘The Wire,’ for having made sexual advances and showing inappropriate behavior towards them. Bhatia has vehemently denied the allegations.
Allegation of sexual harassment has also surfaced against journalist like; Gautam Adhikari ex DNA Editor-in-Chief, K.R. Sreenivas, Resident Editor, Times of India, Hyderabad and Mayank Jain of Business Standard too.
Apart from journalist, men from the film and entertainment industry have also come under the scanner for sexual misconduct by some ‘Me Too’ brigade.
Advertisement icon and Celebrity consultant, Suhel Seth, 55, is accused of sexual assault by at least four women, including one who said she was a minor at the time of the alleged crime.
Actress Tanushree Dutta says that actor Nana Patekar has made inappropriate behavior with her on the set of Horn Ok Pleasss, some 10 years ago. She also alleged that filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri had made sexual advances towards her while shooting at a movie in 2005.
Vinta Nanda, a veteran writer-producer of the avant-garde 1990s’ show “Tara”, has accused actor Alok Nath, known for his “sanskaari” on-screen image of sexually abusing her, almost two decades ago.
Bollywood actress Flora Saini, who played the role of the ghost in the recently released film ‘Stree,’ has alleged that producer Gaurang Doshi had sexually harassed her.
Actress Kangana Ranaut, has said that that director Vikas Bahl would “bury his face on her neck and hold her tight” during the making of the film “Queen.”
While, two women have accused actor Rajat Kapoor for alleged inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment against them, a former student of BHU has accused award-winning lyricist and writer Varun Grover had misbehaved with her on the pretext of working on a play in 2001.
A Mumbai comedian, Utsav Chakraborty, is accused of sending lewd messages to women and young girls requesting them for topless photos.
A female journalist has accused singer Kailash Kher of harassment, saying “he kept his hand on her thigh.”
Similarly, a woman shared screenshots of WhatsApp conversations with top-selling author Chetan Bhagat, alleged to have been making lewd conversation with her.
The sexual stories centering on such personalities are emerging thick and fast all the flavors of citrus juices that media would love to publish. Even some rebuttals on such allegation like ‘ I didn’t enjoyed even Clinton’s moments’ hogged headline as it was really hot.
In this season of sexual allegations the pertinent question is, ‘if there is a smoke, there must be fire?’ So what is going to happen after all the allegations are over? Are we going to live with the smoke and fire stories or clean up such pollution that’s recurring with regular intervals?
Well, since time immemorial men with power and position name and fame have always forced their masculinity on the women and they continue to do so even now. Women being vulnerable species have continued to suffer such miseries because the ‘Girls Don’t Yell’!
This is the title of the Iranian movie that deals with the subject of sexual crime that was committed long ago. In the movie, the victim has come out into open much later after being raped in her childhood. The Iranian court opened a trial against the culprit and found him guilty and ordered his execution.
The harsh punishment was a message that such activities cannot be tolerated and men should refrain from committing such crimes as death penalty awaits them as punishment.
Many may not subscribe to such harsh solutions but the fact remains that to brush such allegations under the carpet would be like providing oil to a burning lamp.
The proper thing would be to frame charges against all such accused and the onus of proving the allegations may rest on the victims. If the culprits against whom the allegations are made are found to be guilty should be given exemplary punishment so that others may take lessons from such cases.
In the same breath if the victims are found to be making false allegation, then they should be taken to task, so that none can dare Yell again such nonsense.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai.