The film and television industry members feel that the closure of the case that sparked the #MeToo movement in India need not jeopardise similar cases that have tumbled out of the closet since actress Tanushree Dutta’s first step.
Film associations, for one, still continue to probe and penalise other accused persons.
Tanushree’s lawyer Nitin Satpute said to TOI, “We will appeal against the closure. Our contention is that the police did not even record the statements of eyewitnesses like Tanushree’s hairdresser and two other women who corroborated our stand. We had submitted a video clip also, but they did not consider it. They tried to protect the accused (Patekar) by calling statements from people who said they do not know anything. How will they get evidence at this rate?”
Senior actress Himani Shivpuri who spoke up for writer Vinta Nanda in the Alok Nath matter said, “At first sight, the closure of Tanushree’s case may seem like a setback for the #MeToo movement given that it was she who lit the spark that caused scores of women to speak out. But I feel women should not become despondent or feel defeated by this decision. A movement is not built by one person. It belongs equally to all those who carry it forward. We should not ask why women have come out 10-15 years later. It takes a lot of courage to speak out.”
Amit Behl, senior joint secretary of the nodal trade body CINTAA said there are other “horrendous, heinous” cases which its internal committee (IC) is investigating at a steady pace. “Both Nana and Tanushree are our members. Tanushree met us a few times but did not appear before our committee. She kept demanding Nana’s expulsion. (CINTAA general secretary) Sushant Singh personally rang Nana and urged him to clarify his stance before our IC but he did not meet us despite many requests. In fact both chose to communicate through their lawyers so it became a fruitless exercise. But we have offered support to many women including Vinta Nanda whose statement (against Alok Nath) was corroborated by six reputed artistes. Our IC includes reputed professionals like Renuka Shahane, Amol Gupte, Taapsee Pannu and Richa Chadha,” Behl said.
Behl also pointed out that in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the entertainment industry began to take stock of its black sheep, and set up ICCs based on the Vishaka Guidelines, after Tanushree’s matter lifted the lid off the can of worms.
Ashoke Pandit, president of IFTDA (Indian Film and Television Directors Association) said, “Police have closed this case as they did not find evidence of sexual harassment that would cause them to arrest the accused. Everything needs to be on paper in black and white to stand a chance (of conviction).”
Pandit said, “The MeToo movement has played an important role in giving voice to women. For instance, our association took action against Sajid Khan after our ICC interviewed four women whose complaints were proved genuine. Top notch lawyers like Mrinalini Deshmukh and Vibhav Krishna supported IFTDA and were on our ICC panel. MeToo should not be misused to settle scores against men. Take the recent case of Karan Oberoi, or earlier Madhur Bhandarkar who was vindicated even by the Supreme Court. And in recent times it was Mukesh Chhabra and Vipul Shah. In these cases women who levelled allegations either disappeared or spoke anonymously. Unsubstantiated allegations tarnish reputations and destroy careers. False accusations only end up harming genuine cases. Their miseries get aggravated by agenda-seekers who use sexual harassment cases against reputed people for personal gain.”