India’s MeToo outpourings began when Tanushree Dutta, a model and Bollywood actress, alleged harassment on the sets of a movie in 2008 by Nana Patekar, an actor. Dutta has filed a police complaint naming Patekar and a choreographer, producer and director who were involved with her in the film “Horn Ok Please.” She told the police that Patekar had “indecently” touched her on the sets of the movie and said she suffered psychological trauma and was unable to work in films.
The accusations against Akbar are that he summoned young female journalists to hotel rooms and harassed them at work. “My last six months as a journalist at Asian Age, the newspaper he edited, were pure hell with repeated physical advances,” wrote @ghazalawahab
Ira Trivedi, a successful author, wrote in Outlook magazine on October 13 that, when she was in her early 20s, Bhagat “made a pass (and) tried to plant a kiss on my lips” in his hostel room after having tea in a public area. He “seldom passed on an opportunity to make overtures” when they met later and “groped” one of her friends on a bus. Seth “became too familiar with me and other women – putting his arms around our waists at parties, holding us a second longer than necessary after a self-imposed hug, planting one on our cheeks or lips when you least expected it”.
Trivedi is the daughter of a senior bureaucrat and felt well-enough established to remain in contact with the two men at literary and other events and repel any advances. The stories she told didn’t happen in the workplace and, taken individually, what happened to her may seem merely inappropriate. Trivedi and others have however been motivated to go public to demonstrate widespread behavior and support #MeToostories of more serious harassment against more vulnerable young women.
The government’s aim now seems to be to support Akbar’s legal action and hope that this stems the tide of revelations against him and others. The Congress Party is seizing on the allegations to demand Akbar’s resignation, which is being called for in the media and has been supported today by journalists’ associations. Congress will make as much political capital as possible out of the case in the run-up to important state assembly elections next month and the general election.
Narendra Modi’s government however has shown over the past four years that public apologies and admissions of guilt are not its style. Some government ministers, including two women, have said that the guilty should be punished, but Akbar is far from admitting guilt.
John Elliott is Asia Sentinel’s South Asia correspondent. He blogs at Riding the Elephant