A journalist has accused India Today executive editor Gaurav Sawant of sexually harassing her and assaulting her during a reporting trip in 2003, The Caravan reported in its November issue.
Vidya Krishnan, who was the health and science editor of The Hindu and is a regular contributor to The Caravan, said the alleged harassment took place when she was sent to cover a peacetime drill in a military station at Beas in Punjab while working at The Pioneer.
Sawant tweeted late Monday, calling the article “irresponsible, baseless, and completely false”. “I am talking to my lawyers and will take full legal action,” he said. In a statement to NDTV, India Today said the article was distressing, but it was in no position to comment or investigate as Sawant had not been employed with the organisation at the time of the alleged incident. However, India Today said it had asked Sawant to provide an explanation.
According to The Caravan, Krishnan alleged that Sawant placed his hand on her shoulder while a group of journalists was travelling by jeep. Though she tried to readjust her position, he did not move away. “Then Sawant shifted his hand from Krishnan’s shoulder to her breast,” the report claimed.
The report quotes Krishnan as saying: “I didn’t feel secure enough to tell anybody and say, ‘This is happening, make it stop.’ I didn’t have the confidence to say anything.”
Later that night, Krishnan alleged, Sawant texted her, wanting to come to her room and sent her inappropriate messages. She rebuffed him but Sawant soon knocked on her door. When she opened the door, she claimed, Sawant let himself in.
Just minutes after he entered Krishnan’s room, Sawant allegedly unzipped his pants and tried to force her hand towards his penis. Krishnan said she “made it very visible to him that this was an unwelcome advance” and felt like Sawant was overpowering her. Krishnan alleged that she started screaming and Sawant finally relented and left the room when her voice got louder.
That night, Krishnan told her boyfriend of the time about the incident. The man confirmed this to The Caravan.
Krishnan told The Caravan that even if she had wanted to complain about the incident, she did not know whether an internal complaints committee existed. Besides, she was reluctant to approach Chandan Mitra, the editor of The Pioneer. “I have later heard from people that Chandan Mitra is actually someone who would stick up for [survivors],” Krishnan said.
#MeToo in India
Since October 5, dozens of women have taken to social media to give detailed accounts of the sexual harassment and misconduct they have faced across several sectors such as advertising, Tamil and Hindi film industries, the field of arts, music and dance, publishing, journalism, sports, religion and even non-profit organisations.