PREDATOR? Editor for the Times of India in Hyderabad, KR Sreenivas, has been sent on “administrative leave” after seven women petitioned the newspaper to take action against him
By Nehmat Kaur
While the TOI says an impartial inquiry is ongoing about the allegations against KR Sreenivas it’s too soon to say where the cards will finally fall in the murky world of molestation in the Indian media. What’s extremely disturbing is how everyone turned a blind eye to a known problem until now
Almost a year after the #MeToo movement started with Harvey Weinstein and then expanded to Hollywood at large, India is finally experiencing its own MeToo movement. Prompted by former actor Tanushree Dutta’s revelations, the baton has been picked up, but not by Bollywood – which has largely remained silent – but the world of Indian journalism and comedy.
Journalist Sandhya Menon started by sharing an account of being harassed by K R Sreenivas, currently resident editor of the Times of India in Hyderabad, in 2008 when they both worked at the Bangalore Mirror. The Mirror is published by the same company that runs the TOI.
While dropping her home at night, Menon said Sreenivas put his hand on her thigh and said that he and his wife had grown apart. Menon asked him to remove his hand and left. The next day she complained to the HR department but they promptly informed Sreenivas of the complaint. Others dismissed her complaints, telling her the man was harmless.
Menon followed that account with another one about Gautam Adhikari, former editor in chief of DNA in Mumbai. Following a night out with Menon and a friend, Menon said Adhikari kissed her without consent and then later asked her not to tell anyone.
She also had to refuse subsequent offers to see him and spend the weekend away with him. Menon’s account on Twitter packed added punch because she also pointed readers to two blog posts she had written at the time of these incidents, where she had described what had happened but not named the editors involved.
On Saturday, a former Times of India journalist, Sonora Jha, who worked out of the newspaper’s Bangalore bureau, recounted an incident from 1995 involving Adhikari when he was TOI’s executive editor. Sonora wrote on Menon’s Twitter timeline that he “called me to his hotel room to discuss flexible hours and then the same assault you described”:
Sonora, who is now a professor of journalism at Seattle in the United States added that when she complained to her immediate supervisor, he told her that Adhikari had asked that she be “sidelined”:
The third editor Menon tweeted about was Manoj Ramachandran, an associate editor with the Hindustan Times in New Delhi, a newspaper she was working with at the time.
Back in 2005, I was 25, and taking shelter from the flood in Bombay at a colleague’s house, @manojanthikad sent me a text, “I want to fuck you.” He took my number from a mutual friend and decided to charm me when Bombay was drowning with that approach. https://t.co/andMvyuV5X
— Sandhya Menon (@TheRestlessQuil) October 5, 2018
What started off as a thread about her own experiences soon transformed into a sort of list of perpetrators as other women started messaging Menon stories of being harassed by the same men, and then other accounts of different men were also added to the Twitter threads.
Menon then updated the list with screenshots of these conversations, some anonymous and some not.
A former Hindustan Times correspondent, Avantika Mehta, first shared her story anonymously in a piece for FirstPost, but decided to identify herself on Twitter a day later.
I’m the ex-lawyer HT correspondent mentioned in @MasalaBai’s story. This thread includes photos of my conversation with prashant jha. you will notice I do everything and beyond to not piss him off while he says he wants to hit on me
— Avantika Mehta (@bitingfriends) October 6, 2018
Mehta, who has accused Hindustan Times editor Prashant Jha of harassment, said they’d met in 2014 when she joined HT and that she’d tried very hard to “not piss him off” despite multiple messages from him where he propositioned her.
She also posted screenshots of Whatsapp conversations between her and Jha. Though the date of the exchange is not known, or the precise work relationship between the two, Mehta called Jha’s messages an act of “harassment”. “I was as nice as I could be because my little experience in Delhi has taught me pissing off a man who’s considered a darling journalist will have shit repercussions for my career and/or I’ll be at the receiving end of his friend’s wrath or laughter,” she tweeted.
On Sunday, Mehta clarified that the conversations were from 2017, when she was no longer an employee of the Hindustan Times.
In another thread, Anoo Bhuyan, health reporter at The Wire, identified Mayank Jain, a reporter from Business Standard as a “sexual predator” and then described being at the receiving end of his “unwelcome sexual predations”.
3. #MeToo because I spent days asking, “What kind of woman am I, that this man could approach me just like that… and tell me to #FuckHim?”
“And then say that he thought, I’m a woman like that…”https://t.co/mFjU0yZf4Y
— Anoo Bhuyan (@AnooBhu) October 4, 2018
Soon after, a freelance journalist replied to the same thread, adding screenshots of her conversations with Jain in which he assumes that shel would like to “take a place” with him, implying he assumed she would want to have sex with him.
Along with Jain, Anurag Verma, a former trends editor with Huffpost India was also accused of harassing women with inappropriate snapchats and requests to “send nudes.”
While most of these interactions describe straight, older men imposing themselves on younger, female colleagues, just a few days ago, this spate of allegations was preceded by a quieter thread on Twitter which said that Hindustan Times journalist Dhrubo Jyoti had been accused of making multiple men uncomfortable with his behaviour.
While Jyoti did not address the concerns on the same thread, he responded to someone else, acknowledging his behaviour and said that he was working to make amends to all the individuals he might have hurt.
reactions – ACCUSED
Prashant Jha did not answer a call and text asking him for a response to these allegations, Anurag Verma tweeted an apology and also explained his actions, saying he’d thought of the term “send nudes” really loosely, thinking it was a “meme” more than an actual request for naked pictures.
While Manoj and Nagarkar did not respond to The Wire’s requests for a response, Gautam Adhikari, in an email said:
“I do not recall any of this. I retired from the media industry many years ago and have no recollection of this incident. I always treated my former colleagues fairly and politely and this person was no exception I would think. I’m sorry if I have ever been unintentionally impolite to anyone but I do not recall such lapses from respectful behavior towards all.”
In an emailed response, Srinivas told The Wire, “TOI has said the charge would be investigated by it’s committee against sexual harassment. A highly empowered and accessible committee under this policy and under the law is in place to investigate and address all allegations of sexual harassment. The group is headed by a senior woman executive. I will submit myself to the investigation.”
Mayank Jain did not respond to an email asking for a comment either. However, he has since left media-related WhatsApp and Twitter groups without offering any explanation.
REACTIONS – EMPLOYERS
Responding to The Wire‘s query about allegations against Jha, general counsel and company secretary for HT Media, Dinesh Mittal said that they will be releasing an official statement on Monday, adding, “We will start an investigation immediately and follow our policies to the core.” He also said that had Avantika Mehta flagged these interactions during her time at HT “action would have been taken.”
Shyamlal Majumdar, Business Standard editor responded: “On Mayank Jain, a due process is on and we can share with you the details as and when we will have anything to say”.
TOI employees have asked their superiors to respond.
Internal petition to the Editors by employees at Times of India: “As a newspaper that has proactively covered the #MeToo movement and written edits thundering against sexual harassment at workplace, the least we can do is practice what we preach.” pic.twitter.com/dystG6YVE1
— Somesh Jha (@someshjha7) October 6, 2018
Now open, the floodgates are showing no sign of closing as women on Twitter continue to name and shame men including poets, authors and advertising executives. Others are sharing stories of being harassed without naming the perpetrators, yet more are anonymously naming perpetrators.
It is still unclear how many of these cases will be pursued legally or investigated by these men’s employers.
Though unconnected to the current campaign, one former editor, Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka, is already facing serious criminal charges – of rape – following a complaint by a journalist who worked with his magazine at the time. Five years later, the trial – which was meant to be fast-tracked to give speedy justice to the survivor – has yet to conclude in the face of repeated delays.
Courtesy: The Wire