New Delhi: Documentary filmmaker Nishtha Jain has accused Vinod Dua, consulting editor at The Wire and the host of Jan Gan Man Ki Baat, of an incident of sexual harassment and stalking that occurred in 1989. Dua has denied the charges.
Over the last ten days, as the #MeToo movement has gained ground, Indian women from the media, film industry, comedy scene and other professional areas have been sharing stories of sexual harassment at the workplace.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Jain said that in June 1989, she went for a job interview for a new political satire-based show with Dua, then the anchor of the show Janvani. “Before I could settle down he began telling a lewd sexual joke in that soft voice, barely opening his mouth.”
“He explained the job and asked me what my expectations were and I quoted an amount that most graduates were getting at the time – 5,000 rupees. He looked at me and said, ‘Tumhari aukat kya hai?’ I dont know what had hit me. I was stunned. What was this about? I had faced sexual harassment early in life but this sort of humiliation was a new experience.”
A few months later, Jain has said, she got a job at Newtrack, India Today’s video news magazine. Jain has alleged that Dua learnt of this and would wait for her outside the office when she was working late, and once tried to kiss her after she agreed to talk to him, expecting an apology.
“One night as I came down to the parking, he was there…He wanted to talk to me and asked me to enter his car… Assuming that he wanted to apologise for his behaviour, I entered the car but before I could even settle down he began slobbering all over my face. I managed to get out and get into my office car and leave.”
Jain, who runs the independent documentary production house Raintree and is known for the award-winning 2012 documentary Gulabi Gang, told the Indian Express that while she spoke to her brother and lawyer friends about the incidents when they happened, she did not think she could pursue it legally. “I spoke to my brother and two lawyer friends about it, but desisted from lodging a complaint because I didn’t think I could pursue it legally. I knew that we could go to court for serious crimes such as rape, but how could I make a case about humiliation?”
Responding to a question on why she has chosen to speak out now and why she did not complain before, Jain has said on Facebook, “How do you prove that someone forcibly kissed you or touched you inappropriately? You cannot. You have to take the woman’s word for it. You have to believe her. Because in most cases there are no witnesses. Would the public have believed me when I spoke 28 years ago? No. What could have I done? There were no ICCs [Internal Complaints Committees]. Police complaint was the only way out. Would I have wanted to go through a due process at the beginning of my professional life?”
Dua, a well-known TV personality who has anchored shows on several channels, has said that he categorically denies the allegations levelled against him. “If mud is thrown at a person, what option does he have other than to protest his innocence,” he said. Dua also said that he would be suspending ‘Jan Gan Man ki Baat’ to give The Wire time to look into Ms Jain’s charges. The Wire has since announced the setting up of an external committee comprising five eminent citizens to investigate the matter.
The Internal Complaints Committee at The Wire has taken note of Jain’s allegations. In a statement on Sunday, the founding editors of The Wire said, “We have seen Nishtha Jain’s Facebook post where she accuses Vinod Dua, a consulting editor of The Wire, of an incident of sexual harassment in 1989. Dua denies the charge. Though the incident pertains to 26 years before Mr Dua’s association with The Wire, our ICC has taken note of Ms Jain’s allegation. We await the outcome of their deliberations in the matter.”
Asked on Facebook why she was speaking out about the incident now, Jain said, “Even today is not the right time for me to come out. I’m in a middle of a shoot. I’m a mid-career filmmaker. I cannot afford this new disruption and the trauma. It will cost me physically, emotionally and professionally. But it’s the right time for the world to listen. The message of MeToo is that any man can be a predator and nearly all women have suffered. Today is the best time to rise and support women who are speaking out and make a safer place for our daughters.”
Update (October 20, 2018): The story has been edited to include Vinod Dua’s denial of the allegation and the establishment of an external committee to probe the allegations.