#MeToo ripples: Prashant Jha quits HT, Tanmay Bhat steps away from AIB, Hrithik reacts sharply

It seems the women’s anger over sexual harassment at workplaces is finally showing some impact. The #MeToo movement which was started by Tanushree Dutta in Bollywood has reached the media world too

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Sarahbeth George

The Political Editor and Delhi Chief of Bureau of the Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha, has stepped down from his position, after allegations of sexual misconduct against him. He sent his resignation via email, acoording to the news website Scroll.in.

The journalist, Avantika Mehta took to Twitter to recount her experience. The former employee of Hindustan Times said that they had met at the newspaper’s office and posted screenshots of WhatsApp conversations between them. She stated that these conversations took place in 2017, after she left Hindustan Times and was no longer his employee and therefore could not file a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee.

The Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC) on Monday, October 8, called upon media houses to establish institutional mechanisms to redress complaints of sexual harassment.

Expressing concern over the spate of instances of sexual harassment faced by women journalists, the IWPC urged them to take recourse to the redressal system to have their grievances addressed.

"The IWPC extends its support to all the women journalists and women employees in the media who have faced sexual harassment by their co-workers and superiors and have had the courage to speak out.

"The fact that many of the complaints have gone unheard despite being brought to the notice of the appropriate authorities is disturbing and a matter of grave concern," IWPC president TK Rajalakshmi said in a statement.

Following Hollywood's #MeToo movement, which has seen several women there having spoken out about sexual harassment faced by them, many people are referring to actress Tanushree Dutta's statement on Nana Patekar as the beginning of a similar campaign in Bollywood.

Patekar's lawyer sent a legal notice to Dutta for allegedly making false accusations against him in an incident that dates back to a decade. "I said this 10 years ago... a lie is a lie," the 67-year-old actor had said.

Rajalakshmi said, "It is also reflective of a systemic malaise where despite the enactment of the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the committees required to address these complaints and grievances are either not properly constituted or simply do not exist." The IWPC pointed out that all media organisations have a legal obligation to set up internal complaints committees in every branch office and disseminate information about what constitutes sexual harassment as well as the venues to seek redressal.

"The phenomenon of many women journalists speaking out through the social media has arisen precisely because of either the absence or the abject failure of robust institutional grievance redress mechanisms that ought to have been readily available to the complainants in the first place.

"The emphasis, within the Act, is on prevention rather than punitive action, therefore the measures for such prevention have to be in place as a matter of conscious organisational policy.

"There ought to be zero tolerance for any form of inappropriate behaviour towards women employees," the statement said.

The IWPC also called for regular sensitisation of employees on what constitutes "welcome" and "unwelcome behaviour" as a prerequisite for a safe and secure work environment.

Meanwhile comedians Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba also "stepped away" from All India Bakchod (AIB) amid the sexual harassment allegations surrounding the comedy collective's members.

This comes after a slew of sexual assault allegations surfaced on social media against the members of the comedy group, and some accused Tanmay of not acting on complaints against Utsav Chakraborty.

Days after it was reported that Phantom Films dissolved because of sexual misconduct charges against co-owner Vikas Bahl, the director's Super 30 actor Hrithik Roshan has tweeted to say that a 'harsh stand' will be taken against Mr Bahl 'if need be.' Mr Roshan, said: "It is impossible for me to work with any person if he/she is guilty of such grave misconduct...I have requested the producers of Super 30 to take stock of the apparent facts and take a harsh stand if need be. This is not to be hushed or brushed under the carpet. All proven offenders must be punished and all exploited people must be empowered and given the strength to speak up."

Reports claim that Mr Bahl was dropped from the promos of Super 30 and and from other shows he was meant to direct. Anurag Kashyap told Huffington Post, that he had 'named and shamed' Vikas Bahl within the film circle and as a result people and started to distance themselves from him. Mr Kashyap and Phantom co-owner Vikramditya Motwane have openly said that they believe that Vikas Bahl was guilty of the alleged misconduct. They both took to Twitter stating as much. They stated that a lapse in their legal and company procedure is what allowed Vikas Bahl to go unpunished for so long. They promised to never let alleged harassment and assault go unpunished on their watch again.

Vikas Bahl has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman in 2015. This was reported in the media last year and the survivor has told her harrowing story in detail to Huffington Post which also spoke to Mr Kashyap.

Vikas Bahl has also been accused of inappropriate behaviour by two actresses, one of whom is Kangana Ranaut - with whom Hrithik Roshan has his own personal and embattled history. The former co-stars have feuded publicly over a disputed romantic relationship and last year, Mr Roshan said in a statement that he had been 'harassed for four years.' This might explain why he has been careful to stress the 'he/she' in his statement on Vikas Bahl today.

The tweet from Hrithik Roshan was the first sign of affirmative action taken by Bollywood since the #MeToo movement began two weeks ago. The allegations of sexual harassment by Tanushree Dutta against Nana Patekar which had sparked the discussion that the movement was met with strong denial from Bollywood’s actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan. Nana Patekar remained unfazed by the allegations that he continued to shoot his film Housefull 4 with Akshay Kumar. Furthermore, it seems as though Bollywood will be taking no action against him and is unlikely to be dropped from the film. Tanushree Dutta has filed a police complaint against Nana Patekar and choreographer Ganesh Acharya.

Vikas Bahl has so far not commented.

(with inputs from agencies)

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Published: 08 Oct 2018, 8:08 PM