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This refers to No Means No, your cover story on the #MeToo movement that has hopefully jolted many institutions out of their comfort zones. Emboldened by support by largely women on social media, India’s victims of sexual misconduct are baring their old scars to expose the men who had earlier escaped unscathed in the oppressively patriarchal setups they were functioning. Today, women are not tolerating inappropriate behaviour or sexual misconduct or gender stereotyping, and the onus is now on the employers and the management to ensure that there is no sexual harassment at the workplace. This is surely a positive movement.
Padmini Raghavendra, On E-Mail
The #MeToo movement has entered India with a bang. Thus far, the media and the entertainment industry seem to be its focus; not that other places are teeming with saints for men. Several women have accused well-placed persons in both these sectors by calling them out on social media. Some accused have reacted with silence, others have denied the charges, pleading innocence and, in some cases, they have ascribed ulterior motives to the accusers. It is appalling that some of the accusations of this #MeToo campaign predate the implementation of the Visakha guidelines whereby most organisations are supposed to have a committee in place to examine charges of sexual misconduct.
Meghana A., On E-Mail
Yes, when a woman says no, it means no: the message is loud and clear, a clarion call given by a few daring women. It reconfirmed the misogynist character of society. And no sphere is untouched, be it the film industry, media, politics or art. The movement has made it clear that sexual harassment is no longer just a women’s problem.
This MeToo mission in India has exposed many gods having feet of clay. Now, this movement must progress beyond social media and the cities as there are the small towns and vernacular media where things may be worse.
Rakesh Agarwal, Dehradun
This predatory culture looks like an epidemic that has suddenly erupted. It is not so. This culture was always there, even during the times of the great epics. We read instances of harassment in Ramayana and the Mahabharata. This “rape culture” has been endemic throughout history. Removing one M.J. Akbar from his position of power won’t civilise this rotten culture. The only way to stop this is for the victim to expose the predator.
Col (retd) C.V. Venugopalan, Palakkad
It is better we segregate men and women in all workplaces and institutions and ensure that nothing goes amiss anywhere as free interactions will make misdemeanours possible. The warning bell has rung. Better segregate than sorry.
T. Santhanam, On E-Mail
Imagine the plight of the survivors before a #MeToo movement was made possible by social media: no place for them to even express their anguish. I applaud the women for sharing their #MeToo stories and exposing the predators. Why are women objectivised in our society so routinely? Where is the culture we so highly talk about? We need to change the overall mentality of the people and it has to happen at home. We need to educate and train our boys to respect women. We need better laws and good corporate governance around this and I know many companies are now taking these seriously. Also, would any women be punished if one goes through a false complain to frame a man? All the same, it requires guts to complain and hats off to everyone who has complained and participated in the campaign. Let’s see how much action is taken against those named by women in this movement.
Kamal Anil Kapadia, Bombay
As an Indian, I am a staunch supporter of the #MeToo movement and I’m happy to see it gathering the required momentum. But at the same time, I am horrified to see how futile statements are being made against names just for cheap publicity and vendetta. Some people also have random stories to throw on their social platforms accusing and defaming reputed individuals. #MeToo initially began to expose a few monsters, but the movement is now being diluted by some not-so-convincing testimonies.
Rakesh Suri, On E-Mail
It is alleged that lyricist Vairamuthu expected a woman singer to come to a hotel and ‘cooperate’ with him. If Chinmayi has kept quiet all this while, it is simply because Kollywood is traditionally dominated by men and she could in no way have prevailed against an influential man like Vairamuthu. Complaints by women about sexual harassment must not be dismissed as mere witch hunt to defame the well-established, but must be pursued to their logical conclusion.
Kangayam R. Narasimhan, Chennai
Many hear some of the stories and exclaim “them too”, but they know it was the case all along.
Anil S., Pune
#MeToo has finally taken the lid off what we all have been a little reluctant to believe and accept: that exploitation of film actresses in Bollywood is an open secret just as in Hollywood. Tanushree Datta deserves kudos for going out on a limb by narrating her ordeal on the sets of Horn Ok Pleassss ten years ago. Her revelations about being sexually harassed by Nana Patekar have sent shockwaves through the film industry. And as these priapic men get their comeuppance, her exemplary sangfroid in sticking to her version despite being slapped with legal notices is a clear indication that her pugnacious spirit refuses to be cowed down as she doesn’t want other budding actresses in Bollywood to be put through the wringer like her. The fact that only a couple of actors and actresses have spoken up for Tanushree goes to show that there is a lack of seriousness in realising the gravity of the situation and unless this chalta hai attitude is not jettisoned, vulnerable young actresses would remain at the receiving end of sexual exploitation. It is a fact that producers and directors often try to dangle film offers in front of aspiring actresses accompanied by indecent proposals. Already, Tanushree’s statement has opened the sluice gate of more revelations of victimisation faced by scribes and TV serial directors. Even some seasoned and famous journalists have been caught with their pants down following allegations by women scribes of predatory behaviour. It is heartening to note that women from various professions are no longer ready to maintain a stoic Meena Kumari-like silence and would rather call out potential stalkers and predators trying to misuse their authority. Simone De Beauvoir rightly said, “Only when a woman decides to display her mettle and audacious gumption, society gets to know of her intent.’’
Aditya Mukherjee, Delhi
This refers to your story from Gujarat, Imagine There Is No Migrant (October 29). The exodus of migrant workers, following an alleged rape in Gujarat for which a migrant worker was arrested, is in tune with the fissiparous trends threatening to disintegrate India. With the nation in economic and political doldrums, the need of the hour is to infuse cohesion, not dissolution. Assaults on workers from other states are frequently reported. The rift is widening as lust for offices of profit encourages parochial camaraderie for garnering votes.
J.N. Bhartiya, Hyderabad
It is a sad reflection of our divisive times that the horrendous rape of a toddler blew up into an avoidable polarising issue in Gujarat. Worked up over the crime against the child, members of her community chose to direct their anger on the whole migrant community to which the accused belonged, rather than seeking justice for the victim. The attempt to whip up hostility against migrant workers in Gujarat is a classic case of bad politics and bad economics. It is shameful, indeed, that Indians moving to other states endure the same discrimination and racism that accompanies them when they migrate to another country.
J.S. Acharya, Hyderabad
Sporadic violence on migrant workers from the Hindi-speaking belt in several parts of Gujarat, leading to an exodus from the state goes against the tenets of the Constitution, which clearly states that every Indian has the right to work and settle in any place of his/her choice in the country. The government must act firmly against the perpetrators so to instil confidence in workers and prevent them from leaving Gujarat when free movement of skilled workmen and artisans is giving a fillip to the state’s economic growth.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
Apropos of The Courts Went Tantri (Oct 22). The religious belief that menstruating women are somehow impure was based on total ignorance, and it is certainly not valid in today’s environment of available sanitary facilities. The Supreme Court has merely corrected this anomaly, since traditions that become irrelevant with time must necessarily be changed. Motivated and superstition-based agitations must be curbed by countering them with reasoning. While the BJP government at the Centre has accepted the Supreme Court’s verdict, it is simultaneously encouraging its state unit in Kerala to object—all for petty electoral gains and to embarrass the state government, which is keen to implement the verdict. This is highly unethical on the part of the BJP.
D.V.R. Rao, Pune
In the story League Of Ms Muscles (Oct 29) Yashmeen Chauhan’s name was mistakenly written as ‘Yashmeen Chauhan Manak’, the error is regretted. Also, she doesn’t have a daughter.