Journlaist Gaurav Sawant, a prime time anchor with television news channel India Today, has been accused by a journalist of sexually assaulting her 15 years ago on a reporting trip.
In the story reported by The Caravan, journalist Vidya Krishnan alleged that Sawant molested her in a hotel room while they were on an assignment in 2003.
Krishnan, who worked with newspaper The Pioneer and was just starting her career at the time, while Sawant was already an established journalist, was initially reassured to find Sawant as one of the people accompanying her on the trip, according to the article, as Sawant had been her teacher at Amity University while he taught as a guest lecture at the institute.
During the trip, Krishnan recounts being molested by Sawant initially while being driven to their hotel.
Later, after reaching the hotel Krishnan alleges that Sawant sent her a text message expressing his wish to come to her room. While Sawant had said he had “nothing naughty" in mind, Krishnan recounts Sawant saying that he wanted to get into a bath tub with her.
Despite Krishnan responding negatively to his message, she claims Sawant landed up at her room within minutes of the exchange and when she opened the door, he let himself inside the room.
Sawant then allegedly unzipped his pants and tried to force himself on Krishnan.
"He had not backed off … I had it made it very visible to him that this was an unwelcome advance. He had not backed off,” Krishnan says in the report. “I felt like he was overpowering me, which is why in my panic I started screaming.”
Sawant only gave up, Krishnan alleges, after her continuous loud screams.
“I think there was some sense of decency where he was like, ‘Okay, I can’t rape her,’ so he went away at that point,” says Krishnan. “He could have very well decided not to and there’s nothing I could have done, at least that’s how I felt at that point … I totally felt like if he had decided to go the other way, he could have.”
Sawant has termed the article "irresponsibe, baseless and completely false", adding that he will take "full legal action".
The article published by Caravan is irresponsible, baseless, and completely false. I am talking to my lawyers and will take full legal action. So grateful to my family, friends, and viewers for their support.— GAURAV C SAWANT (@gauravcsawant) November 12, 2018
Meanwhile India Today, where Sawant is currently employed as Executive Editor, has said "The article is distressing to read. Unfortunately, we are in no position to comment on it or investigate the matter since Gaurav Sawant was not employed with us in 2003. Nevertheless, Mr. Sawant has been asked to provide an explanation. Besides dismissing the allegations entirely, he has informed us that he is consulting lawyers to seek legal remedy," according to a report in NDTV.
Since the piece was published, Krishnan has not made any public comment expressly regarding the story. Although she did tweet, using #MeToo, saying, ""Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women who return to hold men to account."
"Little girls don’t stay little forever."— Vidya (@VidyaKrishnan) November 12, 2018
They grow into strong women who return to hold men to account. #MeToo
Sawant is the latest among a slew of journalists who have been publicly named as harassers or sexual assaulters in wake of the MeToo movement that created ripples across India, especially in media industry, in September with several prominent journalists being shunted out by their organisations.
Most prominently, M J Akbar, who was the junior external affairs minister when he was accused, resigned on account of the allgations levelled against him by several women journalists who had worked with him during his time as a prominent editor.
Akbar has filed a defamation suit against journalist Priya Ramani who was among the first to name him.