Amid the storm of allegations of sexual harassment and rape against members of the entertainment industry in recent weeks, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees – an umbrella body for various film workers’ associations – held a press event in Mumbai on Wednesday announcing its support for what is being described as India’s #MeToo movement.
“The federation, which consists of lakhs of people, have taken this issue very seriously,” Ashoke Pandit, the Chief Advisor of the body, told the press gathering. “We are concerned about the issues raised regarding the dignity and security of women in the industry. The entire federation supports the Me Too movement.”
Pandit said the body has sent notices to film personalities who have been accused of sexual misconduct, including Alok Nath, Nana Patekar and Vikas Bahl, and will boycott them if they don’t respond. “We have issued show cause notice to them and given them 10 days time to respond,” Pandit explained. “If they do not respond, we will ask our unions to boycott and not work with them. In the next 24 hours, notices will go to other people who have been accused.”
Pandit also said a redressal committee would be set up to look into matters of sexual misconduct and abuse. The federation has 24 cinema associations under it, including the Indian Film and Television Director’s Association, Western India Cinematographers Association and the Screenwriters Guild of India. The redressal committee will have 72 members – three from each affiliated association.
“Women members from every association will be there in the committee along with our office bearers,” Pandit said. “It is up to the victim’s choice whether he or she wants to come in the open or not. We have lawyers to give them legal support. There will be a proper investigation into the entire thing.”
Earlier, the Indian Film and Television Director’s Association announced that it had sent a show cause notice to Bahl and would terminate his membership if he did not respond within a week.
The floodgates for the #MeToo movement opened when actress Tanushree Dutta on September 25 accused Patekar of sexually harassing her in 2008 on the sets of the unreleased film Horn ‘Ok’ Pleassss. A flurry of accusations followed against several comedians, media persons and entertainment industry members.
On October 6, a Huffington Post article detailed an alleged incident of sexual assault by Bahl against his former colleague. Bahl has also been accused of harassment on the sets of his 2014 film Queen by actors Kangana Ranaut and Nayani Dixit. On Tuesday, Nath was accused of rape by writer and producer Vinta Nanda when they worked together on the 1990s television show Tara. Actors Sandhya Mridul and Deepika Amin have also accused Nath of misbehaviour and harassment.
Pandit said that the federation plans to ask film bodies to institute safety mechanisms for employees and set up a complaints committee as per the Vishaka Guidelines on tackling sexual harassment at the workplace. “The biggest advantage with this federation is that it has a fantastic manpower,” Pandit said. “We will not stand anybody’s insult or arrogance. You might be a powerful person, but the dignity of the employees should be maintained.”
Pandit said that it’s never too late to take action. “We will fight these wrongdoings. Our only request is for people to not demonise the entertainment industry. Let us instead fight against this menace together.”
The federation will also take steps to encourage artistes to report sexual harassment, federation President BN Tiwari said. “We will form an awareness cell consisting of about four women from the federation, who will go to film sets and make artistes aware about our committee and encourage them to approach us about any misconduct,” he explained.
Earlier this month, the Cine And TV Artistes’ Association or CINTAA had urged artistes to report incidents of misconduct promptly. The association also apologised to Dutta for not addressing her complaint of sexual harassment and intimidation appropriately when she first raised it in 2008 and urged the authorities concerned to conduct an “impartial and speedy inquiry” into the matter.
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