In India, #MeToo captured the public imagination last month when actress Tanushree Dutta recalled her accusations of sexual harassment against actor Nana Patekar on the sets of Horn Ok Please.
Back in 2008, she had complained against him and had walked off the set as a sign of protest. Nobody paid attention to her allegations, now 10 years later she’s the face of India’s #MeToo moment.
However, to say that Tanushre Dutta, no matter how courageous her act is, started #MeToo in India would be a disservice to the legacy of less remembered and astonishing brave women who called out their perpetrators way before Twitter took cognisance of the same. Here’s a lowdown of the important moments in the history of #MeToo in India-
1. One cannot forget Bhanwari Devi while talking about #MeToo. Bhanwari Devi, a lower- caste social worker, was one of the pioneers of the Women’s Development Project of the Rajasthan Government. She use to actively work towards sensitising her fellow villagers on social issues like child marriage. In 1992, she tried to persuade an upper caste family to not marry off their one-
year old girl child. As a consequence, she was gang-raped by the men of that family. 28 years on and she still hasn’t found justice, but her inspiring struggle shaped India’s feminist movement and brought to light the institutional sexual assualt of lower caste women at the hands of upper caste men.
2. In October 2017, Raya Sarkar, a law student at University of California atDavis, posted a list on Facebook that named Indian academics who were allegedly predatory in nature. The list, based on victim accounts, was intended to warn other young women
about sexual predators present in the universities and colleges of the country.
3. Last year, blogger Sheena Dabolkar’s viral #MeToo tweet resulted in the boycott of Khodu Irani’s popular Punepub, High Spirits, by several well-known performers. Many women, who were regulars there, came out with
their stories of being sexually harassed by men inside the pub.
4. Mahima Kukreja outed Utsav Chakraborty, a comedian who has worked with houses like All India Backchod (AIB), of as a sexual harasser. This accusation prompted several other women who recalled the same experience with the alleged perpetrator. As a result, Tanmay Bhatt, AIB’s co-founder and CEO, was also removed from organisation as it was found out that he was complicit when women reached out to him with allegations against Utsav Chakraborty.
5. Closer home in the University of Delhi (DU), Astha Bamba, a student of DU, collated list of alleged perpetrators who were active and established in the Model United Nations (MUN) and debating circuit of DU.
6. Vikas Bahl, the director of Queen, has been accused of sexually harassment by a former employee of Phantom
Films. Actress Kangna Ranaut came in support of her, accusing Bahl of sexual harassment too.
7. Actor Alok Nath has also been accused of raping TV Producer Vinta Nanda who worked with him on the sets of Tara, a television show, in the 90s.
8. M.J. Akbar, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, has been accused of sexual harassment by over 16 women, many of them established journalist. He’s by far the most powerful name in the ever-growing list of sexual predators.
We are at a point when it’s becoming culturally feasible for victims to validate their feelings. There is no victim blaming, gaslighting, or judgement. Which is why we are hearing stories that are years, sometimes decades old. Some have gathered the courage to come on record while others are exercising their right to stay anonymous. Many people have raised the question of false allegations. Feminists around the world are still grappling with how to deal with the collateral damage of lies, but we must refuse to let the “fear of false allegations” override the narratives of victims. The whisper network is a public announcement
now, and we are here for it.
Feature Image Credits: The Print