The #MeToo campaign that hit India saw many allegations against many people from the entertainment and media industry with Leftist propaganda portal The Wire smack in the middle of the storm. During the campaign, their senior Editor Siddarth Bhatia was accused. He had summarily denied all allegations and said he was open to any investigation. He had also filed a complaint against the Twitter handles who accused him.
Their senior journalist, Vinod Dua was also accused at the time. Denying the allegations, he had proceeded to publish a video where he dismissed the entire campaign and termed grave allegations as “keechad”. The Wire had later apologised for allowing Dua to discredit the #MeToo campaign.
At the time, one of their correspondents, Akhil Kumar was also accused by multiple women who chose to keep their identity hidden. The woman accused him of “cruel and abusive” behaviour. She says his behaviour was not one-off as he became more aggressive every time she resisted. She says Akhil forced her into a sexual activity beyond a point where consent was explicitly withdrawn. She says Akhil left bruises and many signs of force on her body. She says she kept quiet because she was scared that Akhil would ‘gaslight’ his way out of it.
Another woman came forward and anonymously narrated her tale of horror. She has accused him of sexual assault and emotional harassment. She narrates two incidents. One, where Akhil removed his condom without informing her and she suffered infection after that. Second, where he forced himself on her, repeatedly bit her and pinned her down. She says that Akhil didn’t stop even after she repeatedly said no and broke down into tears. She also accused him of emotional traumatizing her.
— peglet (@PedestrianPoet) 10 October 2018
After these grave allegations, Akhil Kumar came out with a half-hearted statement where he attributed his behaviour to the ‘process of growing up’. He said that he realised he has caused emotional trauma to many and he apologises for the same. He says that as one of the complaints had suggested, he is trying to introspect and reinvent himself. However, he also said that he has never ‘violated consent’.
— Akhil Kumar (@Akhil1490) 12 October 2018
The Wire as a portal has been a strong proponent of the MeToo movement. They rallied for MJ Akbar to resign and rightfully so. They also reported on the other allegations that surfaced during the #MeToo movement and apologised after letting Vinod Dua use their platform to tarnish the entire movement.
However, after these grievous allegations against Akhil Kumar, The Wire had not issued any statement. The incident itself perhaps fell through the cracks and didn’t inspire the outrage that allegations against other senior members inspired.
The Wire not only did not issue a statement but yesterday, on 8th November 2018, after the clamour around the movement had thinned, they published an article by Akhil Kumar on their portal.
— The Wire (@thewire_in) 8 November 2018
It is evident that Akhil Kumar was not relieved of his employment with The Wire. However, it is baffling that Akhil Kumar disappeared after issuing his statement and resurfaced only 19 hours ago with his article on The Wire.
In the interim period, Akhil Kumar had not tweeted or written for The Wire under his own name. We, of course, cannot confirm if he was working with the portal in some non-editorial capacity or had written under the staff byline.
The Wire has, to date, not issued any statement or given a reason for exonerating Kumar and continuing his employment. One reason could perhaps be that they might not have received any formal complaint against Akhil Kumar. However, even in the case of allegations against Siddarth Bhatia or Vinod Dua, Wire proclaimed that they had not received any formal complaint. Yet, they did come out and publish their statements. One wonders what was different in the case of Akhil Kumar. Was no statement issued and no enquiry conducted because his profile was not important enough to inspire widespread outrage? Did The Wire merely wait for the storm to blow over, after which, they could continue with business as usual? Or was there an enquiry conducted and Akhil Kumar was found innocent of all charges?
These are some questions that only The Wire can answer. We did reach out to The Wire for their response and we haven’t received one yet. This story will be updated with their response as and when we get one.