The #MeToo movement, which paved its way to India late last week, is taking down powerful men in its woke with professional women calling out sexual predators in workplaces and in power equations. It is yet another breakthrough in India’s evolution as an egalitarian society. Though most laws favour women in India sexual violence, abuse and harassment remain rampant. In India — where a woman is raped every 20 minutes — sexual harassment and assault has become an ongoing national conversation.
Sexual harassment in the workspaces was a lonely battle for individual victims until now.
The #MeToo movement and social media have played a huge role in enabling women to get the courage and share their stories. Instant support from the public has strengthened and empowered more women to come forward.
Indian professional women, specially the prominent ones from the urban areas standing up and speaking truth to power is, therefore, a significant turning point in the struggle for women’s dignity at workplaces.
Few women that showed courage and came forward with their ordeals of sexual harassment are :
1. Preity Zinta
In an interview with The Quint, Preity Zinta, who very bravely stood up against her ex-boyfriend Ness Wadia and filed a molestation case against him back in 2014, shared her thoughts on #MeToo and said
“We are in a stage right now where we have acknowledged the fact that there is a problem, and admitting that there is a problem is the first step towards solving it.” “It’s really sad when people turn around and say that this woman is lying and she is doing it for publicity because no woman does it for publicity.” she added.
She goes on to talk about how opening up gives the survivor much negative backlash and it’s a traumatic experience. She wants people to be more compassionate towards people who are opening up and sharing their experiences.
Being in the film industry for twenty years Preity admits that she has never experienced sexual harassment at the workplace but she is very well aware that it does exist.
2. Tanushree Dutta
The #MeToo wave started with Tanushree Dutta courageously speaking about sexual harassment that she faced on the sets of ‘Horn Ok Pleaseee’ by Nana Patekar and no action was taken by the director and producer or the union even after reporting it. Despite of getting mixed reactions from celebs and general people, she has continued to fight for justice with a thick skin.
3. Kangana Ranaut
Kangana Ranaut, who worked with Vikas Bahl in Queen, has come out in support of the woman that accused Bahl of sexual harassment saying that she believes her.
In an exclusive interview to India Today, Kangana Ranaut revealed her own experience with Bahl. She said “Despite being married, he would often boast about having casual sex with a new partner, every other day.
She said, “Totally believe her. Even though Vikas was married back in 2014 when we were filming Queen, he bragged about having casual sex with a new partner every other day. I don’t judge people and their marriages but you can tell when addiction becomes sickness. He partied every night and shamed me for sleeping early and not being cool enough.”
Kangana added that he would get a little too close for comfort at times.
“I often told him off. He was scared of me but still every time we met, socially greeted and hugged each other, he’d bury his face in my neck and hold me really tight and breathe in the smell of my hair. It took me great amount of strength and effort to pull myself out of his embrace. He’d say, ‘I love how you smell K’.”
4. Vinta Nanda
Vinta Nanda, the writer and producer of the 90’s hit show Tara, who has spoken up about the years of torture and shame brought upon her by a leading actor in the show 20 years back, writes in a Facebook post shared on October 8, that she had been “raped” and “brutalised”. Although she did not mention the name of the accused in the post, Nanda described him as a lead actor of a 1990s television show Tara.
“Irony is that the man, the predator in question here is the actor par excellence who is known as the most #Sanskaari (cultured) person in the film and television industry,” Nanda added in the post.
While she stopped short of naming anyone, Nanda later confirmed the accused as actor Alok Nath to news agency IANS. “It is Alok Nath. I thought saying ‘sanskaari’ would do the needful,” Nanda said.
5. Sandhya Mridul
After Vinta Nanda, Sandhya Mridul opened up about being harassed by veteran actor Alok Nath. The film and television actor, in a tweet, narrated the horrific incident and revealed that during the shoot of a Zee telefilm, an inebriated Alok Nath came to her room after dinner and lunged at her. Traumatised with what had happened, she ran away from the room and met her DOP in the hotel lobby who accompanied her back to the room. But the senior actor refused to listen to the DOP as well and insisted on staying. He continued threatening Sandhya and abused her while trying to grab her. After much effort, he was made to leave the room and the hairdresser was made to sleep in her room.
But this is not where it all ended. Alok Nath continued making incessant calls to Sandhya and after returning to Bombay told people that she was a difficult and an arrogant person to work with. Sandhya, last seen in TV show P.O.W. Bandi Yuddh Ke, further wrote, “
Mr Alok Nath I will never forgive you for what you did with Vinta. I stand by you Vinta. What I went through is nothing compared to you. I’m so sorry. More power to you. Your time’s up sir.”
5. Deepika Amin
After Vinta Nanda, Sandhya Mridul and an anonymous crew member from the film Hum Saath – Saath Hain, actress Deepika Amin has now accused actor Alok Nath of harassing her. Deepika took to her social media and shared her story.
On Twitter, Deepika shared,
“Everyone in the industry knows that #AlokNath is an obnoxious drunkard who harasses women. Years ago on a telefilm outdoor shoot, he tried to barge into my room. He slobbered over women, drunk and created a scene. The unit rallied around me and made sure I was safe. #metoo.”
6. Sona Mohapatra
After a female journalist accused Kailash Kher of harassment, singer Sona Mohapatra came forward with allegations of sexual harassment.
In a Twitter thread, Sona shared,
“(1) I met Kailash for coffee in Prithvi Café to discuss a forthcoming concert where both our bands were playing & after the usual, a hand on my thigh with lines likes, your so beautiful, feel so good that a ‘musician got you’ (Ram) not an actor. I left not soon after. (1)
In the next tweet, she writes,
“(2) That did not deter Kailash Kher though. On landing in Dhaka & on my way to the venue with the organisers, keeps calling me & when I don’t pick up, calls the organisers phone to get through to me & asks me to ‘skip’ the soundcheck & join him in his room instead to ‘catch up’” She continued with, “3)The fact that Kailash had sung in my studios & for many projects in which I was the producer & knew me to be as strong as i am or that he had only recently taken a favor from my partner @RamSampathLive to create a personal track for him didn’t stop him. #TheHubris of such #men”
Sona concluded her series of tweets with, “How many women will you apologise to Kailash
Kher??? Start now. Will take a lifetime. (4)
(1) I met Kailash for coffee in Prithvi Café to discuss a forthcoming concert where both our bands were playing & after the usual, a hand on my thigh with lines likes, your so beautiful, feel so good that a ‘musician got you’ (Ram) not an actor. I left not soon after. (1) https://t.co/Cfz8Hf4sdP
— Sona Mohapatra (@sonamohapatra) October 9, 2018
7. Flora saini
Actress Flora Saini accused producer Gaurang Doshi of physical abuse in a Facebook post on 8 October. The actress alleged that Doshi was physically violent with her in 2007, when the two were dating. The altercation, reasons of which are yet unknown, resulted in Saini fracturing her jaw and suffering immense psychological trauma. She also shared pictures taken just after the alleged assault.
8. Sonam Kapoor
Sonam Kapoor supported Tanushree on coming out with her story and speaking at Vogue We the Women summit in Bengaluru, applauded all these courageous women who have stood up to harassment.
“This whole thing that has happened at Phantom, it is disgusting. If you read that article, it’s disgusting, it’s gut-wrenching. And I know these people. I know all of them,” the Neerja starlet said.
However, later on she made a nagative remark about Kangana Ranaut and her story, triggering the War of Words between them.
9. Freida Pinto
Taking a break from her regular posts, Freida Pinto posted a photo on her Instagram account in support of Tanushree Dutta which read, “I Believe Tanushree Dutta”. Along with it, she wrote, “Today, I interrupt my feed for a bit from all the fashion week poses to stand by what I truly Believe. I Believe Tanushree Dutta!”
Appreciating the courage of the Ashiq Banaya Aapne actor,
Frieda added, “I add my voice to the other voices coming out in support of Tanushree’s bravery because God knows this is not going to be easy for you, Tanushree. But what you have done is monumental and important and it has to shake the very core of a nation and an ideology that for too long has gotten away with heinous crimes against women and where the ugliness of misogyny has dominated the rights and suppressed any voice that has dared to speak up.”
10. Richa Chadda
Richa Chadda backed Tanushree Dutta by sharing a tweet and mentioning that women never do it for publicity.
It hurts to be #TanushreeDutta rn. To be alone, questioned. No woman wants publicity that opens the floodgates of trolling and insensitivity.What happened to her on set was intimidation.Her only fault was she didn’t back down-takes a special courage to be #TanushreeDutta.
— TheRichaChadha (@RichaChadha) September 27, 2018
11. Renuka Sahane
Renuka Shahane went on Facebook to give her opinion on the subject of Tanushree Dutta vs. Nana Patekar controversy and quite honestly, she made some strong points that cannot be ignored.
Shahane quite logically speaks about the possibility of changing a dance step if an actress not comfortable doing it. Surely, it doesn’t change the dynamics of the film, she noted.
12. Natashja Rathore
Accusing marketing consultant Suhel Seth of sexual assault, Natashja Rathore, a filmmaker and creative producer shared a number of screenshots of a lengthy WhatsApp message recalling an experience she had “buried deeply” inside her heart. The woman alleged that despite her persistent declining, Seth asked her to join him for an ice cream in Janpath.
“You used your power to take me home instead. You then threw yourself at me although I was clearly uncomfortable. You shoved your tongue in my throat even when I resisted — I whacked your head and said ‘behave yourself’. You put your hand into my kurta and grabbed my breast,” she alleged.
She further wrote that she managed to stop him and went to the washroom.
“Thank you for not raping me that night. Thank you for sending your driver to drop me home. Over time, I’ve learnt to manage you. But no woman should ever have to ‘manage’ the misuse of power and ‘manage’ being sexually assaulted,” she wrote.
13. Mandakini Gahlot
Journalist Mandakini Gahlot said that Seth forcibly kissed her in public at a conference in Goa in July 2011.
“I do not remember what he [Seth] said, but I will never forget that he laughed, and even worse the people in that group laughed,” she said. “In the end, I did not file a complaint – for so many reasons. I was too young, trying desperately to rise in my career and Suhel [Seth] was just too powerful to take on. Like a lot of other women, I also brushed off the incident, and often said, it doesn’t bother me in any way.”
14. Amyra Dastur
Actress Amyra Dastur said that she has been a victim of “harassment” at the hands of “men and women.” However, she doesn’t have the “guts to name” and shame them. Citing an incident, Amyra said: “I have had an actor squeeze himself up against me during a shot in a song and whisper in my ear that he was so glad that I was in the film with him. When I threw him off me and refused to speak to him again, he made my experience miserable.”
“My director told me to suck it up and honestly couldn’t care less. I was constantly called early to set, made to wait for hours and hours for my shot. I was made to shoot 18 hours a day. I slept for 4-5 hours if I was lucky.”
15. Priya Ramani
One of the first survivors of workplace sexual harassment to bring MJ Akbar’s name to the fore, Priya Ramani, a journalist formerly with India Today, The Indian Express and Mint, first wrote about her encounter with him a year ago. She did not expose his name then but dubbed him as a ‘male editor’ who behaved inappropriately, in an account titled Dear Male Boss.
In the 1994 incident, she recounts how MJ Akbar interviewed her in a luxury south Mumbai hotel, offered her a drink (which she refused), asked her to sit next to him on the bed and even sang her romantic Hindi songs after enquiring her musical preferences.
16. Shuma Raha
Another allegations against MJ Akbar was made by Shuma Raha who told The Indian Express, that she called for an interview with Akbar for a job at Asian Age, to a hotel in Kolkata in 1995.
“When I reached the lobby, he asked me to come upstairs and I didn’t think too much of it but there was a level of discomfort about sitting on the bed while giving an interview,” Raha told IE. He later asked her to join him for a drink later. This discouraged her from taking up the job.
16. Prerna Singh Bindra
Journalist Prerna Singh Bindra replied to Priya Ramani’s tweet, recalling a similar invite from MJ Akbar to a hotel.
“He was this brilliant, flamboyant editor who dabbled in politics, who called me… to his hotel room to ‘discuss work’…. made life at work hell when I refused, could not speak up due to various compulsions, but yes #MeTooIndia,” she tweeted without taking his name.
17. Kanika gahlaut
Freelance journalist Kanika Gahlaut, who worked with MJ Akbar between 1995 and 1997 at the Asian Age and other publications, says she was forewarned of his “glad eye” and that he “did it to everyone”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, she said, “He said to come for breakfast in the morning to the hotel and we knew that he sort of paws and all”. She, however, managed to wriggle out of the invite with excuses.
18. Suparna Sharma
Suparna Sharma, who is currently the Resident Editor of The Asian Age, Delhi, was in her early 20s when she had her first brush with MJ Akbar. While making a page of the newspaper, Akbar was standing behind her.
“He plucked my bra strap and said something that I don’t remember now. I screamed at him,” she told The Indian Express. In another instance, she says, he stared at her breast when she wore a T-shirt that had a writing on it and muttered something under his breath, which she ignored.
19. Harinder Baweja
Journalist Harinder Baweja, reacting to Priya Ramani’s tweet said, “So many of us have an MJ story.
“Can I come over to your house with a bottle of rum?” he said. NO, was the answer…. Couldn’t ‘do’ anything. Some don’t get the meaning of No… they move on to the next, don’t they,” she tweeted against MJ Akbar.
19. Shutapa Paul
Journalist Shutapa Paul called out MJ Akbar in a string of tweets, and recalls how she had a rewarding career graph until “MJ Akbar, a well-known, rockstar editor, had taken up the reins of India Today,” she tweeted.
As he made frequent visits to Kolkata bureau, he made several sexual advances and harassed her, including squeezing her elbow, inviting her to hotels at odd hours, threatening her and forcing her to drink.
A few times, he would just stare at her while she discussed her story ideas, making her feel uncomfortable.
Once, when he asked her to drop by his residence, he hugged her.
“MJ Akbar gave me a hard hug; I ducked whatever else could have followed and fled. He seemed amused at my ducking,” he wrote.
She even skipped the meetings with him at late hours at a hotel. Rejecting Akbar’s overtures spilled over to her profession. From a reporter who was doing impactful stories, she was relegated to small stories.
“For days, I was depressed, traumatised and very low. I hadn’t even gotten over the untimely demise of my father and here was someone the same age as my father who was causing me irreparable emotional damage,” she says in her account.
“I wish I had fought back then but I didn’t know how. The only way I could, was to work hard and keep proving myself professionally. I hope this fight can bring about lasting change in our society and workplace,” she wrote.
20. Ghazala Mustafa
Recounting her #MeToo experience with MJ Akbar in a post in The Wire, Ghazala Mustafa she said she joined The Asian Age in Delhi in 1994, where MJ Akbar was the editor then. While she was aware of his flirtations with the young sub-editors and indecorous jokes and comments, she brushed it aside as office culture. However, little did she know that her ordeal was about to begin.
In 1997, when Akbar’s lusty eyes fell on Ghazala, who got her desk shifted just outside his office cabin. Ghazala details how he started sending her salacious messages on the Asian Age intranet network and later started calling her into his cabin for trivial chatter.
She then lists a catalogue of triggering occasions where he sexually assaulted her. Once, while writing his weekly column, Akbar asked her to hand him a huge dictionary placed on a low tripod in his cabin. While she was half-squatting over the dictionary, Ghazala recounts,
“he sneaked up behind me and held me by my waist. I stumbled in sheer fright while struggling to get to my feet. He ran his hands from my breast to my hips. I tried pushing his hands away, but they were plastered on my waist, his thumbs rubbing the sides of my breasts. Not only was the door shut, his back blocked it. In those few moments of terror, all sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. Finally, he released me.”
In other instances, he would forcefully kiss her but she would manage to free herself. On a then colleague’s suggestion, she apprised then Bureau Chief Seema Mustafa of the matter. When Ghazala wrote to Akbar warning him not to harass her again, he called her back to his cabin, saying how she humiliated him and suspected his emotions for her as not genuine.
His harassment continued –
“He would put his hand over mine; sometimes he would rub his body against mine; sometimes he would push his tongue against my pursed lips, and every time I would push him away and escape from his room,” she writes.
He later resorted to emotionally harassing her, even when she finally quit.
21. Saba Naqvi
Saba Naqvi, who christens MJ Akbar as ‘A grand Mughal emperor’ and ‘The badshah’ retweeted a tweet that mentioned that the editor in question was MJ Akbar. It was her first job as a trainee was in Calcutta in the late 80s. She would manage to run every time she saw “the editor” coming from a distance.
Once, he landed up at her apartment, on the pretext that he had come to Russell Street for his article on a series on poverty in her region. He would summon her to his office on multiple occasions for meaningless conversations when he would speak to her chest than her face. Saba even says he managed to get her boyfriend transferred… “to get useless young men out of the way while he hunted the new belles (oops, trainees),” she wrote
22. Nasreen Khan
The first account against Satadru Ojha, the editor of TOI supplement Calcutta Times, surfaced when a former employee of Calcutta Times, Nasreen Khan, wrote a piece against his behaviour on a news portal.
In her account, Nasreen alleges that Satadru had told her that she can’t continue to work in Calcutta Times unless he “pleases him” or keeps him “happy”. During her stint at Calcutta Times from 2013 to 2015, Khan says she was repeatedly mistreated by Satadru, and in spite of complaints to the BCCL management and HR, these complaints were not taken cognizance of.
“Mr Ojha had earlier called me up several times while I was home to say how I could enjoy extra days off to spend time with my kid if only I knew “how to play my cards well”. On one particular occasion when I was home nursing my sick child, he (Satadru) called again with the same sweet temptation. I lost my cool and shouted at him to never call me and to communicate with me either via SMS or emails only. My kid, despite being ravaged by high fever, understood something was wrong. The effect it had on her came out recently.” – An excerpt from her account.
23. Amita Ghose
Soon after, another former employee, Amita Ghose, who now works for Republic TV, also came out with her own harrowing account of what she faced with Satadru.
Ghose, among other things, alleges that it was not just her, but also another male colleague who had to face harassment from Satadru because they (Ghose and the male colleague) were getting friendly with each other. And the list goes on and on with women coming out with their stories anonymously. More power to them and women empowerment!
Do you or someone you know faced sexual harassment or need help? Let us know in the comments!