More women recounted in detail their alleged accounts of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of Union minister M J Akbar and actor Alok Nath as newer names got sucked into the #MeToo vortex on Wednesday.
The Congress, too, stepped into the swirling storm, asking journalist-politician Akbar to either resign as minister of state for external affairs or offer a satisfactory explanation to the allegations by women journalists who had worked with him in the past.
The government maintained silence with Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad refusing to comment when asked to do so in a press conference.
“How can he be in the ministry with serious allegations being levelled against him by responsible journalists who worked with him. Let there be an inquiry into it,”
Congress spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy said as three more journalists came forward with their allegations against Akbar.
One of them, Ghazala Wahab, detailed the harassment and molestation she faced during her first job in the Asian Age when Akbar was editor.
Describing her trauma in graphic detail, Wahab wrote in The Wire that it took her a while to process the abuse and open up about it.
Singers Kailash Kher, Raghu Dixit, commentator Suhel Seth and woman comic star Aditi Mittal were among the names that surfaced as the movement against the spectrum of sexual misconduct escalated.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said allegations of sexual harassment should be taken seriously as women are often scared to speak out.
“Men who are in positions of power often do this. And it applies to the media as well as to politics or senior personnel in companies,” Gandhi told a TV news channel.
Nath, best known as Bollywood’s gentle father and grandfather, was slammed with fresh charges by actor Sandhya Mridul, who said she faced repeated harassment when they were shooting for a telefilm in the 1990s.
Mridul said despite her resistance, he continued to harass her and would drunk call her every night during an outdoor shoot in Kodaikanal.
She said Nath, who has been accused of rape by “Tara” writer-director Vinta Nanda and of harassing Navneet Nishan, sabotaged her career by spreading lies about her being difficult to work with.
Nath released a statement through his lawyer who termed Nanda’s allegations “false” and an attempt to “purposely malign his image”.
As the #MeToo juggernaut — that started last fortnight with Tanushree Dutta alleging that veteran actor Nana Patekar had harassed her — moved on relentlessly, it steamrolled over its first woman.
Comedian Aditi Mittal, a vocal supporter of women who have ‘outed’ their harassers, was accused by fellow female comedian Kaneez Surka.
Surka said Mittal forcibly kissed her while she was hosting a comedy show two years ago. It happened in the presence of the audience, she alleged.
Mittal is yet to respond but has re-tweeted Surka’s accusations against her.
The South film industry was also hit with lyricist-poet Vairamuthu and Raghu Dixit being “named and shamed”.
Vairamuthu denied the allegations saying, “Time will tell the truth.”
Singer Sripaada also shared anonymous posts of two women, who accused Dixit of harassing them.
A singer, who did not want to be named, said Dixit tried to kiss her after a recording session. He admitted the claim, saying he had “misread” the situation, but is yet to respond to the second allegation.
Another singer, Sona Mohapatra, alleged that Kailash Kher, who was earlier accused of sexual misconduct by a journalist, misbehaved with her during a meeting.
Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who has been accused of inaction in a sexual harassment case in his now dissolved production house Phantom Films against co-partner Vikas Bahl, once again defended himself and announced that he was stepping down as the board member of Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image.
“In the light of the current events, I have decided to step back from my duties as a board member from MAMI until the shadow of doubt of our alleged complicitness in silence and not doing anything about it, is cleared,” he tweeted.
Bahl has sent legal notices to former partners Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, accusing them of defaming him out of professional jealousy.
Author Chetan Bhagat, who was accused of sending inappropriate texts to a woman, said in his defence that he was being attacked and vilified in the garb of the #MeToo movement.
According to senior CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat, it was “shameful” that the law dealing with sexual harassment at workplaces was not being implemented in most organisations in the country.
“No consent from a woman means any act of sexual nature is an act of sexual harassment. Such men should be punished. It is shameful that the law is not being implemented at most workplaces,” she told PTI.
The party’s politburo member and the All India Democratic Women’s Association patron said men will have to be taught the meaning of consent.
“Women are breaking the culture of impunity which shields men in positions of power who act as though it is their entitlement that women should be sex objects for their pleasure,” she said.