A year on, many #MeToo cases fade

Citing absence of evidence, investigators are handing out clean chits to high-profile men accused of sexual harassment. Some women who mustered the courage to complain are fighting on

Sruthi Hariharan

Though a late entrant to the global #MeToo movement, India saw an outpouring of bottled up emotions. Scores of women shared their stories on social media, some backing their accusations with screenshots of messages. A full year on, what is the status of these cases? Metrolife finds out.

Chinmayi vs Vairamuthu

Singer Chinmayi Sripaada, based in Chennai, has been one of the most vocal supporters of the movement, and has paid a personal price for it.

She had accused lyricist Vairamuthu of sexual misconduct, a charge he vehemently denied, and actor Radha Ravi. Work has been scarce for the popular singer since. Another fallout was that South Indian Cine Television Artist Dubbing Union banned her for two years; she approached the Madras High Court and got an interim stay.

Last week, Chinmayi took to Twitter to vent her ire about how Vairamuthu and other powerful men named in the movement were never asked uncomfortable questions. In her words, they were ‘successfully whitewashed’.

Priya Ramani vs MJ Akbar

Former union minister MJ Akbar filed a private criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani, who accused him of sexual misconduct about 20 years ago, when he was a journalist. Priya says the case against her is “false and malicious” and will create a “chilling effect against women who spoke out about their experience of sexual harassment at the hands of Mr Akbar”.

Tanushree Dutta vs Nana Patekar

Billed as the star of the Indian #MeToo movement, the Bollywood actor caused quite a stir when she accused actor Nana Patekar of touching her inappropriately while shooting for a song for the film Horn Ok Pleassss. Director Rakesh Sarang, choreographer Ganesh Acharya and producer Samee Siddiqui were also named in the case.

In June this year, the Oshiwara police in Mumbai gave a clean chit to Nana, citing lack of evidence to support Dutta’s allegations. Tanushree expressed her unhappiness with the way the investigation was conducted and has vowed to continue the fight.

Sandhya Menon vs Kiran Nagarkar

Writer-journalist Sandhya Menon, also a vocal #MeToo activist, shared screenshots of her conversations with journalists who said novelist Kiran Nagarkar had behaved inappropriately with them during their interviews.

Months after the accusations surfaced, Nagarkar’s new book was out, published by Juggernaut Books, after Penguin Random House cancelled the contract. A simple Google search of Nagarkar shows dozens of articles praising his book ‘The Arsonist’, none of which mention the allegations against him.

Sona Mohapatra and Shweta Pandit vs Anu Malik

Singers Sona Mohapatra and Shweta Pandit accused Anu Malik of sexual misconduct, following which he was removed as judge on the singing reality show ‘Indian Idol’. He is now coming up with a single and is also rumoured to be returning to TV in a reality show for kids. On Twitter, Sona blasted Anu Malik when he complained he was out of work “for no rhyme or reason”. She also had sharp words for Sony, the channel bringing him to a kids’ show.

Vinta Nanda vs Alok Nath

Television screenwriter and producer Vinta Nanda accused senior actor Alok Nath of rape; subsequently, many other actors accused him of sexual harassment. Reports suggest the Mumbai police are set to file a closure report, again citing lack of evidence.

Alok Nath was expelled by the Cine and TV Artists Association. He filed a civil defamation suit against Nanda and sought a written apology. He was last seen in ‘De De Pyaar De’ along with Ajay Devgn, a strong online crusader of the #MeToo movement.

Sruthi Hariharan vs Arjun Sarja

National Award-winning actress Sruthi Hariharan had accused actor Arjun Sarja of molesting her on the sets of the movie ‘Vismaya’. Sarja had filed a defamation suit against Hariharan, against which her counsel had moved an application in a civil court, pleading that it be dismissed. The court has rejected her application.

Sarja also filed a complaint with the Cyber Crime Police in Bengaluru, accusing Sruthi of creating fake social media accounts to deliberately troll and target him. Sruthi has stayed away from the limelight after she made the accusation. She was heavily trolled on social media and has also spoken about how work was less.

Former colleague vs Vikas Bahl

Director Vikas Bahl was accused of sexually harassing a woman member of his crew in 2016. Production house Phantom films, started by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Bahl, was dissolved in the wake of the allegations, and Kashyap and Motwane extended their support to the woman. Later, an Internal Complaints Committee set up to investigate the case cleared Bahl of all charges and his directorial credit for Hrithik Roshan’s ‘Super 30’ was restored.

Former staffer vs CJI

The crowning moment of the Indian #MeToo movement came when the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, decided to preside over a Supreme Court in-house committee to probe sexual harassment charges against himself.

A huge outcry led to the formation of another three-judge committee, which recently gave a clean chit to Gogoi, saying it found “no substance” in the sexual harassment allegations. The complainant has said her “fears have come true, and all hopes of justice and redress from the highest court of the land have been shattered.”

Metrolife take: Calls for sensitivity

The movement caused many women to speak out about their horrific experiences, and sparked a debate about the erstwhile taboo topic of sexual harassment at the workplace.

But mental trauma is not proof enough for the law. In courts, evidence matters, and it is not easy for women to produce proof for incidents that took place years, and sometimes decades, ago.

All powerful men accused in the movement have been (or soon will be) exonerated and are in fact filing counter complaints against the women who outed them.

The legal limitations in such cases are coming to the fore and need to be taken into account by in the coming years when victims of sexual harassment muster the courage to speak out. It is also important to ensure activists and complainants don’t feel disheartened, and the movement is not misused to settle scores unrelated to sexual harassment.

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