#MeToo: Caravan stings Jatin Das & Only Much Louder

Famous painter Jatin Das (Left) and company logo of Only Much Louder (Right).

The latest issue of the Caravan magazine titled ‘The Reckoning’, released this Monday which focussed on the #MeToo movement and reported on more cases of alleged sexual impropriety, has created an uproar, with at least two of the three alleged parties responding to the allegations since its publication.   

The latest issue shines a spotlight on the work culture of the media and events organisation Only Much Louder (OML) and also features a story of the account of 11 women who were harassed by famous artist and Padma Bhushan recipient Jatin Das.

Reproduced below is a summary of the allegations and responses that were generated by the magazine's issue. 

OML? What is it?

OML, founded in 2002, is an event and media management company that has brought scores of world-renowned international artists such as Steven Wilson, Steve Vai, José González, Mark Ronson, Mogwai, Flying Lotus, The Wailers, Imogen Heap, The Vaccines, Megadeth, Rodrigo y Gabriela, SBTRKT, Bombay Bicycle Club, Asian Dub Foundation, MUTEMATH, Dry the River, Fink,  Karnivool and more for the its annual multi-city music festival called NH7 Weekender. OML also organises live comedy events and has associated with the country’s top acts, including  All India Bakchod (AIB), and others.  

The allegations

The article titled ‘Facing the Music’ describes the ordeal faced by a former OML employee named Tanushree Singh who alleged that in 2013, Gaurav Dewani, then head of sales for OML, molested and forced himself on her despite her repeated refusals. 

Tanushree claimed that after she brought the incident to the notice of her employers, she received contradictory messages and instructions from them. Tanushree implied that the company was slow and unwilling to take prompt action and only created a legally-mandated Internal Complaints Committee to investigate the allegation after she sent a company-wide mass mail about her ordeal. Tanushree also claimed to be under constant fear of being rebuked by being fired due to her complaint.

Tanushree was ultimately disillusioned with the conclusion of the report of the investigation as it did not terminate her alleged abuser — Dewani — who was only given a stern warning and asked to pay any medical compensation that Singh may be entitled to for having faced trauma. The reason cited for this was that the alleged sexual impropriety occurred outside company premises. Singh later quit the company and told the magazine, “I literally felt like I was harassed by the entire company, not one man.”

Dewani is currently the vice president of Times Network. 

The article also cited former employees who said that company co-founder Vijay Nair regularly "made sexual advances towards the young women who OML employed".


Vijay Nair, 34, is the co-founder of media company Only Much Louder (OML).

Another woman, Smriti George, whose company worked alongside OML in 2007, described a video call for work where Nair suddenly declared that he was going to masturbate to her. 

“A penis was whipped out without my consent. There was masturbation. At no point was I asked, ‘Are you okay with this?'” recounted Smriti who was also asked to participate by making moaning sounds.

Though Smriti claimed that she had two consensual and casual encounters with Nair the same year, she claimed that she felt unable to say no due to their professional arrangement and the influence that Nair held in the industry. 

A few weeks later, when Nair sent her suggestive texts and messages, she evaded him. It took her several years to understand that “this thing that he did, it was not okay” and that the incident was a violation.

The story also mentions how a viral story published in HuffPost about Vijay Nair's stalker portrayed him as a victim which surprised many who were privy to his office behaviour. 

The story also discussed another case of an OML employee who alleged that she was verbally assaulted by a senior of the company. The case was also investigated internally and ruled in favour of the complainant but the victim described her disappointment with how the company handled her complaint.  

Response 

The company issued a statement on Facebook to dispute the allegations made in the article. With regard to Nair, they said: "He left OML almost six months ago (he had given his notice in November 2017 to the board and was serving out his notice period). He has not been an employee, and he is also not on the board of the company. The managing partner team of three people lead the day-to-day business and strategy. However, some of these allegations are from when he was part of OML. None of these have or were brought to the attention of our ICC, which has been in place since December 2013." 

The statement said the Caravan story "selectively picks certain incidents from the last eight years to paint a biased, one-sided picture". The story had focused on two instances in particular which OML's ICC had investigated. With respect to the first instance, OML's statement said: "...several of the statements she [the complainant] has attributed to senior employees at OML during the course of these events are categorically not true. We believe the ICC’s recommendations were fair and went over and above what was legally demanded."

With respect to the second complaint investigated by its ICC, OML published an email from the complainant to the ICC, thanking it for the "closure report", based on which the complaint was closed. 

The statement also added: "The broader narrative of the article is that we have encouraged inappropriate behaviour and protected senior persons who were employed with the company. We reject these allegations categorically. All complaints that were brought to the ICC have always been investigated impartially, irrespective of the seniority of the alleged accused."

 

Who is Jatin Das?

Born in 1941, 76-year-old Das is one of India’s most prestigious painter and sculptor and has won many awards, including the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian awards in the country. He has held more than 60 solo shows in the country and internationally around the world and is the father of famous actress and filmmaker Nandita Das. 

The allegations 

The article titled 'True Colours' speaks about the account of 11 women who alleged sexual misconduct at the hands of Jatin Das ranging from the 1990s to 2015. Their accounts have reportedly been corroborated by family members or friends the women confided in.

READ ALSO: #MeToo: Fourth harassment allegation against Jatin Das

Although the nature of abuse differed from "from unwanted sexual advances, suggestive comments and innuendo, to emotional harassment and inappropriate workplace behaviour"; according to the author of the article, Nikita Saxena, she found a few patterns in Das’s alleged conduct. 

The similarities are:

  • Almost all were offered internships or research positions without any formalities or background check or inquiry into their skills and usually through private introductions, word of mouth, or direct offers by Das, based on a single meeting.  
  • Almost all were less than half his age when they met Das. The oldest was in her early thirties.
  • Three women said he forcibly kissed and hugged them without their consent. 
  • The article emphasizes that most of the women are yet to find any closure. 

“Till now, as far as Das was concerned, his routine harassment of women had been just that: a part of a routine that did not tarnish his reputation or interfere with his larger-than-life persona,” reads a line from the article. 

Nisha Bora, one of the accusers, also questions out loudly: “Who takes the next step? Should this individual be allowed to hold the country’s third highest civilian award? If yes, what does it say about us as a country?”

The response

Jatin Das has refuted the allegations since they first came out in October, calling them ‘vulgar’.

“I don’t know who they are. It’s so painful and vulgar. Anyone can say anything about anybody and it gets published. There might be truth to both sides, but it’s the innocent who loses dignity,” Das has reportedly said. 

His daughter, Nandita, who has been speaking up for the #MeToo movement, said she will continue to support the movement “despite the disturbing allegations made against my father”. 

There have been no fresh reactions or responses to the latest issue of Caravan magazine.

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#MeToo: Caravan stings Jatin Das & Only Much Louder

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