Former Miss India and actor Niharika Singh has come forward with her own account of ‘Me Too’ and has documented the harassment and abuse she endured during her struggles in the film industry in a lengthy post on social media. In her post, she has named Bhushan Kumar, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sajid Khan and Rituparna Chatterjee and others.
The purpose of the post, says Niharika, was to “expand my own understanding of what constitutes abuse, who we choose to punish and whom we are willing to forgive.” Her ordeal in the industry, as per her account, began when a model who had assisted her in finding an apartment attempted to molest her sister who was staying with her. She writes, “That model’s career was on its way down and one day, after a few drinks, he ended up getting violent and tried to molest my sister. When she opened up to me, I went to his studio, broke whatever I could, gave him a few slaps, screamed expletives and told him to never show his face again. That episode shook both my sister and me and I blamed myself for not being able to ensure her safety.”
Niharika then mentions her encounter with Bhushan Kumar in whose film she was supposed to feature. She wrote, “Bhushan Kumar called me to his office to sign ‘A New Love Ishtory’ where he gave me an envelope as a signing amount for the film. It contained two 500 Rupee notes (less than 14$). I got a text from him later that night- ‘I would love to know you more. Let’s get together sometime.’ I wrote back saying- ‘Absolutely! Let’s go on a double date. You bring your wife. I’ll bring my boyfriend.’ He never wrote to me again.”
Nawauddin Siddiqui, however, is the Bollywood star who features the most prominently in her post. She describes how he had once grabbed her after she opened the door to her home and wouldn’t let go. “After a little coercion, I finally gave in,” she says about that incident. Later, she claims she would go on to learn that Nowaz (as the actor is referred to in the post) had lied to numerous women, told each of them a different story with one of them even calling her up and yelling at her on the phone. At that point, she had told him that she did not want to see him again.
Niharika met Nawaz again after three years at Cannes in 2012. Soon, after a brief spell of tears, she assured him that he could call him if he ever needed to talk but on the condition that he would never lie to her again. A year later, during the shoot of a movie that he had offered her, Nawaz again “begged” her to be sexually involved with him but she refused and asserted that she could only be his friend. She claims that later, after a promotional event at Ahmedabad, Nawaz had tried to grab her again. But she managed to walk away.
Then in 2017, Nawaz’s memoir ‘An Ordinary Life’ co-authored with writer Rituparna Chatterjee and published by Penguin Random House included a completely “fabricated” account of his relationship with Niharika that was published without her knowledge or consent, she claims. She adds further, “A senior theatre and television actress Sunita Rajwar who had known Nawaz since her NSD days confirmed his ‘extraordinary lies’ and filed a case. He offered a token social media apology withdrawing the book. I ordered the book online a week later and it was delivered to my house.”
Niharika also offers a severe indictment of the manner in which self-proclaimed liberals and feminists conducted themselves during the entire episode. She says, “Director Anurag Kashyap, Nawaz’s mentor and close collaborator who chose to turn a blind eye towards sexual harassment within his own company, continues to support Nawaz and his story. Writer Rituparna Chatterjee with her completely unethical, defamatory and poorly researched book is not apologetic either.”
Then adds, “News channels and publications regurgitated the sensational content from the book along with images from different phases of my life adding further fabricated layers to the story. This public scandal was one of the biggest controversies of 2017. Penguin Random House took no responsibility and remained silent. Filmmakers, Writers, Publishers, Journalists, Lawyers -nobody can take a high moral ground. They were all complicit in this collective public shaming.”
Niharika also condemns feminists like Kavita Krishnan and Nandita Das for ‘allying with predators’. She states, “Women in power like Nandita Das and Kavita Krishnan have all shown professional and political allegiance with predators and enabled them through their silence or solidarity. Lending their voices to ‘survivors’ of the #Metoo movement now only comes across as fraudulent.”
The former Miss India’s account also mentions Sajid Khan who she claims told her that she should commit suicide. Her story was shared in a series of Tweets by journalist Sandhya Menon and can be read here.