Trigger warning: This article contains details about sexual assault and harassment which may be triggering to survivors.
New Delhi: “Silence is more dangerous than the act itself,” writer-producer Vinta Nanda said today after revealing her account of being sexually assaulted by veteran actor Alok Nath 19 years ago in a social media post on Monday.
In the midst of the raging #MeToo movement – which in the past few days has brought up numerous allegations of sexual harassment against men in Indian comedy and media – Nanda yesterday made public her allegations against Nath.
While Nanda stopped short of naming Nath, in a Facebook post on Monday, the writer and producer of 1990’s television show Tara alleged that the “lead actor” of the show and the “television star of that decade” not just raped her, but “brutalised” her in her own home.
Nanda’s suggestive remarks that ironically, the “predator in question” is the “most sanskaari” person in the industry, were enough to point the finger at Nath – who is known for his on-screen image of being a stereotypical father and father-in-law, and upholder of religious traditions and moral values.
In her social media post, which at the time of writing had been shared nearly 3,500 times, Nanda said the actor was “alcoholic, shameless and obnoxious” and would harass the lead female actor of Tara on set. She said Nath would “mess with her” and everyone around would remain silent. What was worse, she claimed, was that he was often egged on by men on set “to be his worst.”
It was eventually decided that Nath would be let go, and when the actor learnt of it, he arrived for the shoot “drunk on our sets” and “continued to drink till the time he was called for the shot.” He then “felt up our female lead” following which he was asked to leave and told “that he was not going to be on the show any longer.”
When the management at the channel changed, Nath was eventually brought back. Soon after, the newly-appointed CEO asked them “to shut down the show, along with all our other shows.” She further claimed in her post:
“I was insulted and humiliated by the CEO, asked to get out of his office and told that women like me should be thrown out of the country.”
The worst, however, was yet to come.
On a day Nath’s wife was out of town, Nanda says she was invited for a party at his house where she says her drinks “were mixed” and she began to feel “strange”. She left his house at 2 am. “All I knew at the time was that I had to get home. I could sense it wouldn’t be right for me to stay there any longer,” she wrote.
On her way, she says she was “accosted” by Nath “who was driving his own car” and offered to drop her home. She sat in his car.
“I have faint memory after that.
I can remember more liquor being poured into my mouth and I remember being violated endlessly.
When I woke up the next afternoon, I was in pain.
I hadn’t just been raped, I was taken to my own house and had been brutalised.
I couldn’t get up for my bed.”
The assault didn’t end that day. Nanda says while she was working on Nath’s new series, he asked her to his house again. “I went to allow him to violate me. I needed the job and didn’t want to leave it as I needed the money. It was after this that I quit,” she wrote.
“I have waited for this moment to come for 19 years,” she added.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Nanda said when she spoke about the incident, everyone around her told her “to keep quiet, shut up.” Thus, going to the police was not an option as it meant “reopening a can of worms which would just make it a very difficult situation.”
“Everybody knew it would go against the woman – which it did. He continued to get work despite the whole world knowing what had happened to me. He went on with his successful career from place to place. I was the one who was out of the industry. I was the one who was labeled as a person who is a difficult person to work with. I was the one who was labeled as person who is not cooperative. I was the one who was labeled as person who would create trouble if anything was to happen. I’m the one who suffered. I had to start again,” she said this afternoon.
The reason she says she decided to reveal her assault is that she “felt it was now or never.”
“I’m not afraid,” she said. “I’m at a place in my life where I’m not afraid. I’ve spoken openly and I’m not ashamed. The man who has done this to me is the one who should feel ashamed. I’m speaking because he should be shamed. Because he has lived for so many years believing that he’s gotten away. Why should I hide my face?”
Addressing women at large, Nanda said: “Please speak. Go to the roof and shout from there.” She further encouraged women to openly call out their abusers and not suffer in silence.
Nath has outrightly dismissed the allegations. According to a NewsMinute report, the actor, speaking to a news channel, said: “It (rape) must have happened, but someone else would have done it. Well, I do not want to talk much about it. As for the matter, if it has come out, it will be stretched,” he said.