The sheen is gone, and the masks are wearing off. One can almost hear Bollywood’s famous screen dialogue “Bhagwan ke ghar mein der hai, ander nahi” (There may be a delay but never injustice where god dwells) playing out as the stark ugliness, the scars and scabs beneath the glamour world are being exposed one after another. And it’s not just the stars.
The #Me too movement that set heads rolling in Hollywood is finding its echo in a similar manner and occupying centre stage setting to rest doubts that it will remain a non-starter in India
Skeletons are tumbling out of the cupboard from the world of film, media, music, literature, comedy, politics and almost every walk of life. Ever since former model and actress Tanushree Dutta’s allegations of sexual harassment against veteran actor Nana Patekar on the sets of the 2008 film “Horn Ok Please” surfaced afresh this September, not a day has gone without fresh allegations of harassment by victims across the spectrum.
Among the avalanche of accusations witnessed during the last few days are heartrending tales of harassment coming from women journalists exposing the ugly underbelly of the media and greatly diminishing its hallowed image. Apart from predatory behavior at work, many journalists have come out with details of harassment from well known personalities they have interviewed.
While voices defending the abominable behavior of the perpetrators have been harping on the fact that allegations have an ulterior motive because they date back to many years, victims are all speaking about inaction to past complaints. Like Aishwarya Rai Bacchhan , the latest celebrity to add to the power of the campaign says timing is irrelevant. “When it comes to helping women find their voice, find the strength, feel confident about sharing their stories, it is not about current time. This has been going on for a long time. I am glad that it has found a certain momentum today’ she has said.
Screen shots of messages, blog posts and other evidence have ensured some action. A few people have been shown the door and others have been asked to proceed on leave pending an enquiry. Some have closed their social media accounts and some others have issued an apology. Perpetrators can longer ignore the rising crescendo of voices seeking justice.
They are acting because they are pushed to do so. The momentum for action has not come from some external source but through women who have broken their silence. The apprehensions that naming and shaming can be the new tool to tarnish images of well known people are largely misplaced. It is not easy for victims to speak up and those who resort to misusing this medium would be a negligible minority.
For every voice that has come out in the open there are still many that remain muffled lacking the courage have to speak up against perpetrators. Public apologies, excuses, denials and notices from women’s commissions do signal some movement in the right direction. Only concrete action against perpetrators will ensure that the movement is a success and make sexual harassment an obsolete word.