#MeToo storm gathers force: more biggies fall by the wayside
As newer names cropped up on social media with increasing number of women outing those who had allegedly harassed them over the years, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi noted that anger at molestation and sexual abuse never goes away
The #MeToo storm intensified Monday with more women recounting their experiences of sexual harassment in the entertainment and media industry, leading to actor Rajat Kapoor apologising for his alleged misconduct and AIB facing uncertainty after two members distanced themselves from the comedy group under a cloud.
As newer names cropped up on social media with increasing number of women outing those who had allegedly harassed them over the years, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi noted that anger at molestation and sexual abuse never goes away.
She told reporters in the national capital she is "very happy" that the #MeToo campaign had started in India and encouraged women to come forward to complain against sexual harassment.
While the entertainment industry remained consumed by the many ramifications of the spectrum of sexual harassment charges -- that started with Tanushree Dutta's allegations against veteran actor Nana Patekar -- the Delhi-based bureau chief of a major English newspaper reportedly resigned from his post.
Mainstream star Hrithik Roshan, who has just made "Super 30" with Vikas Bahl, broke his silence on the allegations of molestation by a junior employee of Phantom Films against the director.
"It is impossible for me to work with any person if he/she is guilty of such grave misconduct. I am away and have access to only sporadic information. 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 strength to speak up," Roshan said in a Twitter statement.
Phantom Films -- helmed by Bahl, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena -- was dissolved over the weekend ahead of a HuffPost article that detailed the victim's account and how the production house failed to take action.
AIB, which became popular for its 'roasts' and satires, could face a similar future, said Vidhi Jotwani, AIB HR head.
While Tanmay Bhat has come under attack for his inaction in complaints against fellow writer-comedian Utsav Chakraborty, Gursimran Khamba has been directly accused of sexual misconduct. Both are founding members of the comedy collective.
"Truthfully, we don't know what this means for the future of AIB or whether there is one. In the interim, Ashish Shakya, Rohan Joshi and other senior team members will work towards being able to answer that question over the next several months," Jotwani said in a statement.
Bhat, the statement added, will not be involved with the day-to-day functioning of the company.
While Khamba issued a separate statement denying "any violation of consent", Jotwani said the comic will be on leave till the company has more clarity on the matter.
She added that it was everyone's right to work in a safe environment and AIB hopes to "enable measures to establish our commitment to creating a gender sensitive workspace".
Allegations against Chakraborty surfaced last week with multiple women accusing him of sending them unsolicited nude pictures.
Kapoor, the award winning actor and director of films such as "Aankhon Dekhi", was accused by a woman journalist of "lewd" and unprofessional behaviour.
He said on Twitter Sunday that he has tried to be a "good human being" all his life and apologises from the "bottom of his heart".
Patekar appeared before the media on Monday to deny Dutta's allegations of sexual misconduct during the shoot of "Horn Ok Pleassss" in 2008.
"I said this 10 years ago too. What was true then remains true today. My legal team has asked me not to speak. Otherwise, why will I not speak to you guys?" he said.
The producer of "Horn Ok Pleassss" submitted an application before Mumbai Police, stating that no molestation took place as alleged by Dutta.
The Cine and TV Artists Association (CINTAA) said it is ready to readdress Dutta's allegation against Patekar "by conducting a fair and expeditious" inquiry, provided she wants to take it forward.
In the national capital, the Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC) called upon media houses to establish institutional mechanisms for complaints of sexual harassment.
"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.
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