Filmmaker and artist Pravin Mishra has now joined the list of those accused of assault as several women continue to use social media to speak out about sexual harassment. Mishra is the Director of Crafting Creative Communication at MICA, a business and management school in Ahmedabad, and is also a frequent columnist.
Vaneet Chhibber, professor and associate director of marketing and external relations at MICA, told Scroll.in in an email that MICA had set up a special committee to “suo motu and proactively” take cognisance of such allegations.
In a public post on Facebook on October 8, independent journalist Surabhi Vaya wrote of how Mishra had allegedly assaulted her at his home two years ago.
“Two years ago, Pravin Mishra assaulted me in his home,” Vaya alleged. “I have spent every day since wondering if I should speak up, if I should’ve filed a complaint, if there are others, and if my speaking could’ve prevented them from suffering pain and trauma at the hands of this predator. What I feel, if I feel at all, changes every day.”
Mishra called the allegation “malicious and defamatory”. He said, “There’s absolutely nothing ever happened between us that can be termed as an ‘assault’, neither verbal, physical or sexual. It’s part of a larger conspiracy to defame me as a person and a professional.”
Vaya did not go into details of the alleged assault, but said that Mishra’s father-in-law, who was also her part-time employer at the time, later mediated a conversation between them. She declined to elaborate beyond her posts to Scroll.in. “This opportunity was afforded to me because then there would be no need for a police complaint and because it was the best I could hope for: a measly, coerced, half-hearted, apology from a predator embarrassed out of his wits,” Vaya wrote in her post. “Anyone in that room with me could’ve seen that I had gone from being a long-time friend, employee and confidante to PR trouble and logistical anomaly that needed calming and put away. The hysterical woman is a scary thing to let [loose].”
Mishra acknowledged this meeting had taken place. “The meeting at my father-in-law’s office was initiated and insisted by Vaya,” Mishra said. “It was to sort out a misunderstanding between Vaya and me. There was no discussion on any assault.”
Mishra’s father-in-law is a prominent civil rights activist in Ahmedabad.
Mishra said he supports survivors of sexual assault, but called Vaya’s allegation untrue. “The reasons why civil society members are now speaking against Vaya’s statement is because they can differentiate between the genuine and the fake,” Mishra said. “She has not specified yet about the nature of ‘assault’ which is the crux of the matter.”
He added: “The post was timed just 18 hours before my PhD DAC review with an intention to disorient me. If she waited for two long years, she could have waited for a few more hours. There are people involved in the conspiracy who know my life inside out.”
“It’s very unlikely that Vaya would know that,” he added in response to a follow-up question about how Vaya might have known about the timing of his review. “The group that is part of this conspiracy have infiltrated my inner circle and is aware of every little thing of my life.”
He also said: “I also have reasons to believe there could be political hands pulling the strings.”
Meanwhile, MICA said it has a special committee to look into external complaints.
“The said allegation is on a Facebook post by a lady who is not a MICAn, and alleges an incident outside of MICA campus,” Chhibber told Scroll.in. “We are, though, committed to upholding the highest ethical standards, in addition to abiding by the letter and the spirit of the law.”
Chhibber said the institute had constituted a special committee to “suo motu and proactively [take] cognisance of any such concerns [allegations] and violations as well as reinforce a safe and enabling environment at MICA for all”.
Contrary to news reports suggesting that Mishra had been suspended pending an inquiry, Chhibber clarified that Mishra has coincidentally been on study leave since September 17 and therefore has no current academic or administrative responsibilities at the institution.
Vaya’s account has been met with silence from the civil society in Ahmedabad, she said in a post on October 11. “I was hoping Ahmedabad would keep up with these changes and I am disappointed to see that it hasn’t,” Vaya wrote.
Vaya added: “It’s easy to stand up for people one thinks of as faceless and marginalised. It’s tough to back someone on principle even if it means a few uncomfortable social encounters. The fact that we as victims must bear the burden of social change while others remain silent is a deeply disturbing truth, one I had hoped I wouldn’t have to discover. It also means: nothing will change.”