Nana Patekar, Utsav Chakraborty, K R Sreenivas – what’s common to them all you wonder? These are all men who have been allegedly involved in some sort of sexual misconduct and have been named by their victims.
The media is having a field day, given that they have so many stories now to report on. India has finally got its own #MeTooIndia, says the editor of a leading daily. To them, it means more stories and therefore more eyeballs, and ultimately more revenue.
But what does this really mean for you and me?
Almost a year ago, I had a telephonic interview with a person well-known in society. I choose to keep the name to myself because I have no intention of getting embroiled in a debate of any sort.
During the conversation, he casually told me, “You seem like a lady who would enjoy wine.”
For a second, his words did not register in my mind. I remember having to ask him to repeat himself, which he did.
I let it pass, brought the focus of the conversation back to my interview question, which he answered, and our conversation ended.
I did not need to speak to him after that, and I am sure even if I did, he would not remember the conversation at all.
In all likelihood, he might not even have registered that what he said to me was highly inappropriate. The feeling of entitlement among the famous is so strong that they never see the need to look beyond their bubble of comfort and power.
What needs to change is the mindset, where a man believes that he can say, or in some cases, even do anything and get away with it. There must be accountability of some kind, which prevents men from getting away.
What happens once these names are brought into the public domain?
Do you remember the case of 52-year-old angel investor Mahesh Murthy? In all likelihood, you might not, because the case died down pretty much as soon as it started.
In February 2018, Murthy was arrested, following a complaint of sexual harassment against him. However, in less than a month, he was released on bail. Post his release, there have been many more women who have come forward and spoken up against him, shared the sexual advances he made towards them and the lewd messages he sent.
The last I checked, he is a free man who continues to dine and entertain freely. His social media presence is witness to this.
One of the things that is often said about the women who come out and make these allegations is that ‘she is doing it for publicity’.
I ask you, the readers, what publicity?
The woman who makes the allegation is often the subject of great scrutiny. Every writer, editor, television show host and of course, the viewer, takes it upon themselves to conduct an in-depth analysis of how the lady has led her life so far. Questions are asked about her sexual partners, her relationship with her parents (to attribute some of her outspokenness to a troubled childhood), the circle of friends she keeps, and so on.
In the process, the lady who made the allegation is subject to immense mental trauma, often leading to her just moving bag and baggage to avoid the media trial.
Besides being spoken about in a derogatory manner on talk shows and newspaper editorials, what ‘publicity’ does this bring one, exactly?
Yet another issue people seem to have is with regards to the time one takes to come out and make the allegation. ‘But it happened almost a decade ago. Why bring it up now?’
Sometimes it just takes a whole lot longer to process what exactly happened and one cannot and should not be penalised or questioned on why it took so long to come out.
Over the last 24 hours, more men have issued apologies than ever before. It perhaps started with Chetan Bhagat, who after discussing the issue with his wife, Anusha, issued a public apology and accepted his mistake.
Following his lead were personalities associated with the film industry like Rajat Kapoor, Kailash Kher, and comedian Jeeveshu Ahluwalia.
What’s similar in all these apologies is this one line, which they have all used, “If I have made anyone uncomfortable with my words or actions, I apologise.”
What these men have allegedly done is an offence punishable by law. How does one get away by merely putting out an apology message on social media platforms?
Let’s move beyond mere lip service. Let this not be yet another social media campaign that loses steam in a week or ten days. Let this be the beginning of a change we need so desperately.
Two lawyers, Veera Mahuli from Delhi, and Rutuja Shinde from Mumbai, are taking this revolution ahead. Both these lawyers have extended their expertise to help those in need.
You can reach Rutuja at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get in touch with Veera, send her a direct message on her Twitter handle: @veeramahuli.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)