Mumbai: With Tanushree Dutta speaking up, a floodgate of memories has opened. India’s #MeToo moment seems to have arrived, with many women saying enough is enough. Indian media was until now spared the embarrassment but on Friday unsavoury details unravelled in multiple Twitter threads — about top-notch media professionals who had misbehaved with journalists. What started as a trickle may end up becoming a deluge with several journalists ‘coming out’ in the open.
Bangalore journalist Sandhya Menon recounted two incidents – first, when she worked with a newspaper launched in 2005. After a dinner outing with the editor- in-chief and his assistant, who was her friend, she gave a polite hug to her boss. What ensued after the hug shocked her no end. “So, I gave him a hug to say goodnight. He took my face in that moment, held it and kissed my mouth, tongue and all. It was all I could do to not jump out of the window and fly home. I scrambled for the door, muttered a goodnight and ran.” The editor, who had worked in a similar position earlier with a leading national daily, asked her not to speak about it. However, a few days later, he asked her out on a date, to go on a long drive; that was when she mustered the courage to say ‘no’.
Sandhya later worked for a Bangalore tabloid, where she had a similar run-in with the then editor. He offered to drop the team home and she was the last to be dropped. “I get to my house, we’re chatting. He lays his hand on my thigh and goes, ‘My wife and I have grown apart. She doesn’t understand me.’ ” Sandhya’s story was corroborated by her colleague Shobha SV, who recollected the incident. “Sandhya and I were colleagues back then. I remember her sharing this incident with me.”
Minutes after Sandhya’s tweets were out, other women came forward. City cartoonist Manjul recounted the tale of a young reporter who had a harrowing experience with the aforementioned former editor of a leading national daily. After that, Indian women from various parts of the world came forward to narrate their experiences with a singer, a retired justice, a playwright and an author, and a well-established photographer.
When the FPJ contacted the Maharashtra-based retired judge, he said, “The girl has alleged my wife and domestic help were at home; now, I don’t remember this entire incident. Many come and interview me. Right now, some of us are speaking out against the BJP leadership; so, I really do not understand (who is) behind this ‘bichari’s’ allegation. I am not going to take action against these charges, I really don’t have the time.”
After reading the tweets, another female journalist recounted her experience. “Getting triggered, angry, and tearful. Remembering a senior sports writer in The Telegraph who used to paw women. Widely known, no action taken. And what hurts the most was a female colleague telling me ‘Knowing you, you probably enjoyed it’. Women, don’t do this to each other,” said Shrabonti Bagchi.
Online portals add: Earlier in the day, stand-up comic Utsav Chakraborty apologized after being accused of sexual harassment by several women. The YouTuber was associated with comedy collective AIB, which accepted in a statement that it had messed up by collaborating with him even after AIB co-founder Tanmay Bhatt received “specific, detailed allegations” in a “personal conversation”.
In a Twitter thread over two days, multiple women tweeted how they were harassed by Utsav, when he sent indecent pictures of himself to the women, asking them to send theirs. Initially, he referred to his actions as ‘plain sexting’ and later said, “It’s a little too late now but I am sorry. I really am. The past 24 hours were a crucible. I faced a very scary personal truth. I can’t think of myself as a victim anymore. Please tell me what to do now. How to make things right? I don’t want anyone to be hurt anymore.”
The AIB, which too was in denial until Friday, has now publicly acknowledged their cover-up.