#MeToo: India Today’s Gaurav Sawant accused of sexual assault; he threatens legal action
India Today’s executive editor and top TV anchor Gaurav Sawant has been accused of sexual assault by senior journalist Vidya Krishnan. Another journalist has come out in her support
India Today’s executive editor and top TV anchor Gaurav Sawant has been accused of sexual assault by journalist Vidya Krishnan, who was the health editor at The Hindu newspaper in New Delhi till last month. It was reported in The Caravan’s November issue by Nikita Saxena.
Krishnan, who is a regular contributor to The Caravan, said Sawant had reportedly assaulted her during a reporting trip in 2003, when she was sent to cover a peacetime drill in a military station at Beas in Punjab while working at The Pioneer, which was run by Chandan Mitra, a former member of parliament. This was her first job and though it was a regular reporting assignment, it was important for her.
Sawant was one of Krishnan’s guest lecturers at Amity University, from where she had just graduated in 2003.
This trip had several male journalists including Gaurav Sawant travelling in a military jeep to the location. Sawant was sitting behind her in the jeep. Krishnan alleged that Sawant placed his hand on her shoulder and she said she was immediately uncomfortable, but questioned her first instinct. “I briefly thought it was an accident,” she said. She tried to readjust her position a few times but Sawant kept at it. “Then Sawant shifted his hand from Krishnan’s shoulder to her breast,” the report stated. This shocked her, stated Krishnan.
She said she didn’t have the confidence to make it stop or say anything to anyone in the jeep. Krishnan said she looked around her, and saw men who were unfamiliar to her, but knew each other.
According to the report, Sawant even quipped, “Tumhe pahuchne ki badi jaldi hai”—You seem to be in a hurry to reach. It became a running joke, she recalled, the youngest person and only woman in the vehicle was behaving like a child who feels trapped on long journeys.
Krishnan remembers from the banter that Sawant was about to get married soon.
Later that night, Krishnan alleged, Sawant texted her, wanting to come to her room and sent her inappropriate messages. She could only remember some of the phrases Sawant had used.
He had said what he had in mind was “nothing naughty.” He just wanted to get into a bathtub with her.
She wanted to turn him down without being rude but Sawant soon knocked on her door. When she opened the door, she stated, Sawant let himself in.
Krishnan remembered that Sawant was taller and stronger than her, and she feared being physically overpowered. “In my mind, there was a fear that I might have to end up doing what he wanted,” she recalled, “I was not confident that I could stand my ground and say ‘No.’”
According to the report, minutes after he had entered her room, while he was still talking to her, he unzipped his pants, and began trying to force her hand towards his penis. She tried to push him away, but could not.
Krishnan said. “I felt like he was overpowering me, which is why in my panic I started screaming.” As Krishnan’s voice got “louder and louder,” Sawant relented.
That night, Krishnan told her boyfriend of the time about the incident. The man confirmed this to The Caravan.
Krishnan told The Caravan that even if she had wanted to complain about the incident, she did not know whether an internal complaints committee existed. Besides, she was reluctant to approach Chandan Mitra, the editor of The Pioneer.
Apart from being The Hindu’s health editor, Krishnan is an award-winning journalist and a former fellow at the International Reporting Project.
NDTV reported that when they reached out to India Today, they got the response: “The article is distressing to read. Unfortunately, we are in no position to comment on it or investigate the matter since Gaurav Sawant was not employed with us in 2003. Nevertheless, Mr. Sawant has been asked to provide an explanation. Besides dismissing the allegations entirely, he has informed us that he is consulting lawyers to seek legal remedy.”
In a late night tweet, Gaurav Sawant tweeted that he was talking to his lawyers for further action.
Meanwhile , another journalist posted on Twitter that she could "testify Gaurav Sawant is a pest".
National Herald has reached out to both Gaurav Sawant and Chandan Mitra. This article will be updated with their responses.