India is in the throes of a revolution. The MeToo movement has finally reached India. The women have risen to take to task to high and mighty who thought they could harass women and get away with it. The impunity has been shattered. The silence has been torn apart.
Huffingtonpost.com, in a 4-month long investigative piece, peeled the layers of silence that had insulated Vikas Bahl, Anurag Kashyap’s partner in Phantom Films. The victim who came forward said that one night, Bahl pretended to fall asleep after having too much alcohol, only to wake up later and masturbate on the victim on 5th May 2015.
Bahl offered to drop her to her destination. She didn’t think much of it because he was her boss. He pretended to fall asleep. And the victim, who was high on alcohol, slept as well. Within seconds of her lying on the bed, the woman said, she felt Bahl put his hand inside her dress. The woman says she resisted several times. When she pushed him away one final time, Bahl dropped his pants and began to masturbate.
The HuffPost interview says that Bahl yelled ‘Fuck you, bitch” before he left the room, leaving the woman violated. The next day, Bahl actively tried to confuse the version of events in her head so he could escape scot free. Later, the victim narrated her story to her friends who helped her by taking her to a therapist because she was depressed and suicidal.
The intimidation is detailed painstakingly. The article says:
One day, she said, she was at the Phantom canteen when Bahl walked up to her and said, “You know, abroad they allow dogs everywhere. Here also, they allow dogs at a lot of places.”
The woman said she stood silently as Bahl continued, “But what about you? With your fucked-up attitude, who will allow you anywhere?”
The harrowing tale is too arduous and it was natural for questions to be raised on Anurag Kashyap’s silence. The HuffPost story says, “On 30 October 2015, five months after her trauma, the woman and Kashyap travelled to Bengaluru on work. In a ride to the airport, she told Kashyap the details of her encounter with Bahl”.
Kashyap then goes on to claim that he was too drunk to remember what happened. He then put out a statement where he admitted he knew and gave a million reasons as to why he chose not to do anything. None of them holds water.
My statement in light of the recent HuffPost article and breaking up of Phantom . There are two pages.. pic.twitter.com/WCAsaj6uFR
— Anurag Kashyap (@anuragkashyap72) 7 October 2018
However, it is not just Anurag Kashyap’s silence that was a problem. His actions, as much as his silence, was questionable. The victim said that in 2015, Anurag Kashyap had promised her that Bahl would apologise. Three years have passed, and to this day he hasn’t. One wonders then, what action did Anurag Kashyap take except consulting his lawyers who he claims ill-advised him?
The victim says that in 2016, a year after she had already told Kashyap about Bahl’s harassment, Kashyap asked her to do a short commercial assignment with him.
“This made me realise that Kashyap wasn’t thinking about me or the trauma I went through,” she said, adding that she felt humiliated at having to repeatedly ask that Bahl apologise to her. “It told me that he isn’t going to do anything about it. I had to leave.”
One has to ask the question as to why Anurag Kashyap, despite knowing about her trauma for a year by then insisted that she work on a commercial assignment with the very man that assaulted her.
The victim had narrated her ordeal to Anurag Kashyap’s girlfriend in 2016. In 2017, Shetty, Kashyap’s girlfriend texted the victim and told her that she would not take this ill-treatment handed out to the victim lightly and that she was sick of this behaviour.
It is claimed that after his girlfriend felt harassed by Bahl, Kashyap made up his mind to set things right. However, on 10th March 2017, when the victim was called for a meeting with the partners at Phantom and told that Bahl was finally willing to apologise, one of the partners questioned the victim and tried to discredit the victim’s version. Through this, Kashyap stayed silent.
The report says that on 13th March 2017, a meeting was arranged between Anurag Kashyap, his girlfriend, the victim and the victim’s boyfriend. In this, Kashyap asked the victim to out Bahl publicly. On the boyfriend’s interjection that she couldn’t do that considering Phantom films didn’t do anything for 2 years and now there was no guarantee that they would stand by her, it is reported that Anurag Kashyap and the victim’s boyfriend “came to blows”. The victim herself felt uneasy at this proposition by Kashyap. She too felt that he didn’t want to seek justice for her but settle scores with Bahl following a possible sour relationship.
A natural question needs to be asked here. If Anurag Kashyap felt that he and his company had wronged the victim who had been telling her harrowing tale of harassment for 2 years, why would he come to blows with the victim’s boyfriend? If it was Kashyap’s intention to ensure the girl gets justice, why was he insisting that she outs her own identity in the media without taking a stand himself?
Things at Phantom were not going well and any observer would ask whether Kashyap was using the victim as a sacrificial lamb to settle scores with Bahl.
Days after HuffPost published the victim’s account, Phantom was disbanded. Kashyap and Bahl went their separate ways. While Anurag Kashyap knew and didn’t do anything about seeking justice for the woman for 3 long years, it would appear that his actions were far more questionable than his silence. He seems to have used to the victim to settle personal scores and packaged it as his internal tryst with the law, his company, his partners and everything else other his conscience.
Much has been said about people in power remaining silent and enabling an abusive workplace that torments women. Anurag Kashyap, for all his explanations, seems to have done exactly that. It is indeed intriguing that AIB which was started by a bunch of 20 somethings knew what to do when allegations surfaced against their founding members. They were asked to step away. They were asked to quit. Anurag Kashyap, on the other hand, took 3 years to take some mysterious legal advice and yet, didn’t do anything. He instead used to the victim to supposedly settle personal scores.
It is perhaps time for Kashyap to introspect. For all his proclaimed “feminism”, when did he decide to sacrifice the interest and safety of a victim at the altar of petty internal politics.
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017