Pune bar owner's mother shocked about sexual harassment allegations against son

Updated: Oct 22, 2017, 12:10 IST | Chaitraly Deshmukh

Moti Irani, Congress leader from Pune and mother of Khodu Irani, proprietor of the High Spirits Cafe, accused of sexual harassment by staff and patrons, speaks to mid-day

Moti Irani, Congress leader from Pune and mother of Khodu Irani, proprietor of the High Spirits Cafe in Pune and the man in the eye of a sexual harassment storm, does not mince words while responding to the charges against her son. "I have not raised my son in such a way. I am shocked to hear this. If he has done such a thing, I will be the first to punish him. My son knows his limits," she told mid-day.

Days before women shared their sexual harassment experiences with the #MeToo tag, another important conversation was taking social media by storm - that of molestation incidents at the popular bar in Pune. They began on October 11, after writer Sheena Dabholkar shared experiences of sexual harassment she had witnessed and been through at the bar. Soon, several women also recounted similar incidents they had been through at High Spirits, which included being groped, pinched and kissed by Khodu. Among the women was Divya Desa, a former employee who wrote a blog post alleging Khodu had sexually abused, harassed, and bullied her during the time she worked there.

Also read: Amazon suspends executive over sexual assault allegation

Moti Irani
Moti Irani

Mother shocked
Speaking about Desa's allegations, Moti said, "I am shocked at the way the former employee, who was given a job by Khodu, has backstabbed him in such a brutal manner. He had taken so much care of them by keeping a watch on them so that they weren't hurt by anyone. He safeguarded them and this is what he got for it. He used to make it a point to ensure employees reach home safely."

Khodu Irani
Khodu Irani

Moti said she was unaware of the allegations, "I do not visit the pub as it is crowded with young children. I have not seen him behaving in this manner. This matter never came up to me until the [social media] trend began."

Also read - Mumbai: Man arrested for sexual harassment of three-and-half year old

The sexual harassment allegations against High Spirits and its owner emerged on October 11. Pic/zomato
The sexual harassment allegations against High Spirits and its owner emerged on October 11. Pic/zomato

'Merely defaming Khodu'
mid-day contacted another close relative, who said, "This is merely to defame Khodu and spoil his business. Why are the allegations coming out after three years? Social media existed back then, too. The women who claimed to be harassed are well educated and well versed with the law and self-defence. Then why did they not hit back or approach the police. Why are they raising these allegations now?"

mid-day also reached out to Khodu and his wife Rivka, but they remained unavailable for comment. A close relative informed that they are on holiday in Sri Lanka.

Also read: Superintendent booked for sexually harassing female medical officer

On the other hand, one of the regular customers of the pub said, "The allegations that have come up have been heard or observed often by many of us. After the issue began trending online, we began discussing it and noticed that many of the issues raised are genuine. Apart from that, every year, he gave out awards to couples, regular visitors and others for best breast, leg and other weird categories."

Police begin probe
As for the police, they have begun an internal investigation into the allegations. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone III) Deepak Sakore said, "Based on the online allegations, we are probing the case internally under the direction of the Commissioner. Based on the allegations on Twitter, we have also asked the women to approach us, so we can take cognisance of their grievances. But, presently, no one has approached us.

"We also asked Mundhwa police station [under whose jurisdiction the bar falls] to scrutinise their records and check if any complaint has been registered against the pub or its owners, but we haven't received anything fruitful so far." He added, "Our officials also inquired the staff at the pub, citizens visiting it to get some leads, but did not receive a productive response. We are scrutinising a video we got from social media to see if Khodu has behaved in an indecent manner. We appeal to the citizens to approach us with their grievances, we will definitely take cognizance of it."


Also view: Photos: Politicians who have come from the world of entertainment
Photos: Politicians who have come from the world of entertainment

Tweet talk

Sheena Dabholkar
@weeny: This is standard High Spirits. I’ve had my nipples, tits, weight commented on. Friends have had bra straps tugged, upskirt photos taken.

To register your complaint

Contact Pune police
E-mail: cp.pune@nic.in 
Call: 020-26890153

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