MeToo movement is getting wider day by day. Recently, in an exclusive interview with Mid-Day, two survivors accused Exceed Entertainment’s co-founder Afsar Zaidi of alleged sexual harassment. While recalling the incident, the first survivor claimed that Afsar has put his hands on her breast and rubbed himself against her back.
Afsar Zaidi is a co-founder of Exceed Entertainment, a popular celebrity management agency, which handles stars like Saif Ali Khan and Sonakshi Sinha, among others. However, two survivors’ MeToo story is indeed a shocking thing for the big organisation.
While narrating the incident to Mid-Day, the first survivor told the publication that in 2014 she joined an organisation. She said, “He would make me stand in the middle of the office and ask everyone to dress like me. Initially, it was flattering, but after a point, it was systematic. On certain days, he would make comments like, ‘Are we showing too much back today?’ He would look me up and down.”
While speaking about an International trip, the survivor said that they met Ajit Thakur who was an important client of the company and the employees would have to keep him happy. “During a chat with other colleagues, my boss took me aside and told me that Ajit wanted me to help him get women. I thought he was joking at first,” she said. “When I timidly expressed that I wasn’t comfortable doing it, I was told, ‘Yeh sab karna padta hai’. I discreetly told the girls that they should go someplace else before the men approached them. Ajit continued the ‘after party’ in my CEO’s room where he repeatedly came onto me”, she further added.
Shockingly, when she went to her room, Afsar had sexually harassed her. Speaking about the incident, she said, “Afsar has a terrace next to his cabin where he was hosting the party. I was told that Hrithik Roshan, Bipasha Basu, and Shilpa Shetty were to eventually make an appearance with their respective managers. Afsar was physically grabbing people and pouring drinks down their throats. While I kept dodging him, at one point, he grabbed me from behind, put his hands on my breast and forced me to down a drink. He did this a few more times in the course of the evening. He was drunk by midnight. It was then that he came to me again and started rubbing his penis up against my back.”
“There were 30 people around, yet they chose to turn a blind eye to what was happening in front of them. I froze and didn’t know how to respond. I remember him saying, ‘If you like it, push back harder.’ That’s when I pushed him with my elbow and angrily said, ‘Is it hard enough for you?’ He was so drunk that he didn’t register my rage. Instead, he got turned on and invited me to his room for sex. I ran to a colleague for help, but he kept following me. I tried mustering the courage to talk to the HR person when a few minutes later, another woman came screaming out of Afsar’s cabin. She was hysterical and it turns out, she became his prey that night when I said no”, survivor added.
When Mid-Day asked the second survivor, she stated that it was an incident of near rape. Surprisingly, when Afsar was asked by Mid-Day about the allegations, he said, “The allegations that appear to have been made are without basis, and are an attempt to malign me and defame my reputation and that of my company. The company has in place a policy for sexual harassment at the workplace. If the complainant has a genuine case, let her come forward and present it before the ICC constituted by the firm. This matter should not be one for trial by the media — there are systems in place in law and those should be used to ensure fairness and justice. I deny the allegations in entirety, they have been made without any basis or an iota of evidence. I plan to take appropriate legal action as may be advised.”