Will #MeToo be Another Closed Chapter?

Mahima Kukreja (@AGirlOfHerWords), a young Indian writer, on Oct 4, 2018, on her twitter platform, posted that a Mumbai-based famous comedian, Utsav Chakraborty, had once sent her an unsolicited photo of his male organ. Responding to the tweet, another woman tweeted by sharing stories of parallel behavior from Chakraborty. This dialogue continued and Kukreja began posting screenshots of the messages she received. Thus, she has outset an inferno.

Truly speaking, the MeToo flicker was well and actually sparked on October 15, 2017. It was just ten days after the Kantor-Twohey story came into light when actor Alyssa Milano tweeted a demand for victims of sexual harassment or assault with the expression. This ignition spread across the world, resulting in the tweets in their native languages. The Spanish, in their tweets, used the hashtag #YoTambien, while Italians had #QuellaVoltaChe and the French #BalanceTonPorc.In this MeToo drive, many such Hollywood fame as Kevin Spacey and Morgan Freeman have been accused. As far as the state of affairs in India is concerned, Bollywood’s Nana Patekar, Vikas Bahl, and Sajid Khan have already been taken on by the mounting blaze. Of course, this list is not confined alone to the film industry. One of the most high profile men to be blamed in this scenario is M.J. Akbar, the current minister of state for external affairs and a former journalist. Numerous women have come on record to accuse Akbar of persecution and tactless behavior. This ultimately has led to a demand of MJ Abkar’s resignation. Another noticeable name in the list is of Chetan Bhagat, a leading Indian author. Screenshots of inappropriate messages sent by Bhagat to a woman some years ago have been shared on social media platforms.

The #MeToo movement has come to India in operation, more or less a year after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein were exposed. Surely, it has been a slowly built up campaign in India. The contemporary situation in the country is — scarcely anybody speaks until the time something out blazes massively. The #MeToo campaign is not an exception in case. Nevertheless, things have been slowly changing. It is worth mentioning that the brutal December 16, 2012, gang rape case ofNirbhaya, and the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Asifa Bano in Kashmir in January 2018 (aptly known as Kathua rape case), also brought huge numbers of women onto the streets in protest that clutched the global attention. In this background of #MeToo, the movement has now built on that impetus by giving more Indian women the audacity to name the culprits. Palpably, in addition to media personnel and actors, other expert groups are opening their own campaigns.So many organizations have, by now, set up their ICCs (Internal Complaints Committees). As far as the Women executives are concerned, they see #MeToo as a platform to speak up about their bitter involvements. They have been believing that their owes would be heard, firmly. The only hope they have is — it will prevent at least some impending and potential stalkers, as they will have a fear that they may be called out in public.

In my opinion, regardless of a predominant robust law to prevent sexual harassment in India, we never had real discussions — it has been a mere cloak-and-dagger. With the #MeToo campaign in vogue, the situation seems to be changed and discussions are taking place across workrooms. In this setting, there is a need of buoyancy to think about a perpetual grievance redressal handling system, beyond the ICC, for the reason that there have been many instances wherein women have moved towards the ICC and have been advised against. So, therefore, there are other courses of action that need to be thought of.Of Course, I am apprehensive if like many other movements that transformed into the closed chapters, #MeTOO campaign might also gather dust over the record books in the near future. Even before the commencement of #MeToo campaigning, Sri Reddy, a Tollywood actress has come out with the allegations of the casting couch — relatively a similar topic like #MeToo. It has created a buzz in all forms of media. But the end result was unsound. In fact, the real test for #MeToo campaign is weeks down the line when #MeToo may not be in headers. If proven guilty, I wonder whether the accused would be punished or not, kowtowing to the power of the #MeToo campaign.

In concluding words, according to me, for most of the Indian women, #MeToo is less about seeking redress and so much about discharging years of repressed emotion!

–      Dr. Suman Kumar Kasturi