The start may have seemed innocuous: A “woke” comedian who tweeted about being embarrassed by the behaviour of Indian men on a cruise abroad, only to be called out by a woman online about his own actions. Over the next four weeks, #MeToo swelled, building on an initiative to put together a list about sexual harassers in academia in 2017. Women took to social media to tell their stories about improper, inappropriate and, often, illegal behaviour, to offer belief, support and advice, and to discuss what needs to happen next.
Accounts emerged from sectors as diverse as Bollywood, the media, NGOs, schools and the sports world. A minister has had to resign, big-budget film projects have been shelved, and senior men across industries have been suspended, sent or leave or had inquiries set up against them. Amid all this there has also been a debate about how the movement itself has functioned – whether naming and shaming works, whether the impact has been limited to elite spaces, how to negotiate calls for due process and what justice in many of these cases that may not be crimes actually looks like.
The chart above only includes those tweets that were geo-tagged within India, so it serves as a sampling of the overall tweets connected to the movement.
The most high-profile of the cases that came up online was MJ Akbar, former minister of state for foreign affairs in the current government and a veteran journalist. At least 17 women came forward with accounts of Akbar’s behaviour, with the allegations ranging from inappropriate language to, most recently, rape. Akbar had denied all accusations, and even filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, who was the first to name him. But he also became the first minister in the four years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to step down because of any sort of scandal.
The movement has been large and wide-ranging, with news organisations only able to capture a part of the conversation and report on some of the allegations. At Scroll.in, we put together some of the major stories together in a tracker focusing on men whose accusers have gone public, or who have acknowledged or apologised following anonymous allegations, or in cases where reporters corroborated allegations made anonymously online.
A number of other organisations did the same thing, and indeed the movement played out across numerous news platforms, with many using their reporting resources to complement the stories that were emerging online, in addition to covering those allegations. This lengthy wrap by The Wire covers a huge amount of all that has emerged. Firstpost and The Indian Express also built #MeToo trackers.
Below is a quick recap of Scroll’s stories covering the movement over the last month:
- Ipsita Chakravarty and Aarefa Johari reported on a number of the allegations against veteran journalist and former minister MJ Akbar, whom eventually more than 17 women have spoken up about, including allegations of sexual assault and rape. After he denied the charges and threatened legal action, Tushita Patel wrote alleging that he had sexually harassed her as well. Sruthisagar Yamunan also examined the flimsy defamation case Akbar filed against Priya Ramani, who was the first to speak up about him. And M Rajshekhar and Rohan Venkataramakrishnan spoke to some of the men who worked with Akbar, who were able to spot a method to his actions.
- Aarefa Johari and Abhishek Dey reported on allegations against Suhel Seth, a high-profile brand consultant whom multiple women have accused of forcibly kissing and groping.
- Sunita Thakur wrote about the allegations, including her own experiences, against veteran journalist Vinod Dua, and how the India media scene in the 1980s was full of such men.
- Nayantara Narayanan and Supriya Sharma reported on the allegations of 10 different women against journalist CP Surendran, whose response included the lines, “The Me Too movement needs victims to feed and fatten itself. I won’t be the last.”
- Archana Nathan spoke to singer Chinmayi Sripaada about the alleged behaviour of Tamil poet-lyricist Vairamuthu, and how her attempts to say no led to threats that her career would be finished because of this. S Senthalir spoke to Sindhuja Rajaram, another singer who said Vairamuthu came after her as well.
- S Senthalir reported on the alleged behaviour of Tamil director Susi Ganesan, whom filmmaker Leena Manimekalai claims she wielded a knife to get away from.
Culture, media, advertising and sport
- Archana Nathan reported on Chennai’s Music Academy dropping seven musicians from the December cultural season in the city, a significant move from an industry that is usually insular and resistant to criticism. She also reported on how harassment is an open secret in the world of Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam.
- Harsimran Gill reported on moves from a number of people to get literature festival organisers and publishers to take a stand against authors accused in some of these accounts. K Srialata wrote about how young women poets and authors in the 1980s and 1990s simply had to learn to be careful, since they could not be certain of support if something did happen.
- Shreya Roy Chowdhury reported on multiple allegations against various staff members at Teach for India, a non-governmental organisation that works with low-income schools, and how the leadership has not dealt with internal complaints well.
- Nayantara Narayanan reported on the need for a ‘cool, creative’ culture in the advertising world meant anyone who complained about inapprorpiate behaviour would face blowback.
- Chandrima Pal spoke to those who worked in Indian television in the 1990s, when new channels were ending the Doordarshan monopoly, but also creating the conditions for predators to flourish.
- Zenia D’Cunha reported on how Indian sports federations make it hard to report any sexual harassment, which is why #MeToo hasn’t really hit the sports world. Also, Aju John wrote about the legal challenges of reporting and investigation harassment in sports.
- Nayantara Narayanan and Mridula Chari reported on how news organisations and leadership in the media have often failed their employees on the question of handling sexual harassment. S Senthalir looked at how the women who work in South India’s media organisations often can’t even “afford to outrage”. Akash Bisht also reported on the toxic culture of harassment that follows women around in the Hindi news industry. Abhishek Dey wrote about why women beat reporters have been apprehensive about joining the metoo chorus.
The bigger picture
- Kanish Karan offered up five charts that show how sexual harassment in workplaces is starting to be recognised, but people are still unhappy with what is being done after it is identified.
- Ipsita Chakravarty listed out the four stages of male denial that usually come after a man has been accused of something under #MeToo. She also collected the responses of a number of the men who have had accusations against them.
- Mridula Chari spoke to activists and others in the field to figure out if Maneka Gandhi’s Ministry of Child and Welfare Department’s plan to have a panel to look into allegations that have emerged following #MeToo was likely to take the movement forward.
- Archana Nathan returns to 1992, when a Dalit woman’s rape led to India’s first sexual harassment law, though justice itself still eludes her.
Dalit woman’s rape in ’92 led to India’s first sexual harassment law – but justice still eludes her.
- Veena Gowda and Vijay Hiremath explained how the criminal justice system is being used to silence women, particularly when it comes to harassment cases.
- Vijayta Lalwani spoke to some of the women who were using their Twitter accounts to listen and amplify the stories of other women, and what having to be at the forefront of that battle means for some.