An anonymous post on social media from an alleged female employee of entertainment network The Viral Fever accused founder Arunabh Kumar of sexual harassment on 12 March.
In the post, titled “The Indian Uber – That is TVF”, the author, @Indian Fowler, accused Kumar of making non-consensual physical contact, and engaging in lewd conversations.
Two other posts by filmmaker Reema Sengupta and ex-TVF employee Aayushi Aggarwal also made the rounds with similar accusations. The latter alleged leaving the company in “bad circumstances” after being harassed by a co-worker.
After that more women came forward with their stories of sexual harassment they faced while interacting with Kumar.
TVF released a statement deeming the allegations “baseless”, and stating that they will “find the author” and “bring them to severe justice for making such false allegations.”
They said, “All the allegations made against TVF and its team in the article are categorically false, baseless and unverified. We take a lot of pride in our team and in making TVF a safe workplace that is equally comfortable for women and men.
We will leave no stone unturned to find the author of the article and bring them to severe justice for making such false allegations.
It is our humble request that you do not to share an unsubstantiated, unverified and anonymous article such as this. We would like to thank all our fans and friends for their continued support.”
Above lines neither promised an investigation nor mentioned taking the allegations to a company committee to prevent sexual harassment.
TVF doesn’t even talk about investigating the allegations. Their immediate response – shame the victim.
Talk about a safe environment.
— kaveri chandrashekar (@Littleshrimpcat) March 13, 2017
Simultaneously, members of senior management at TVF tweeted their views on Twitter. One writer claimed the allegations were impossible since TVF has, in the past, released feminist content:
While other senior members claimed no such employee ever existed.
The first female staffer to speak out referred to the allegers as “haters”:
A few hours later, Bisht issued a second statement saying she was “shocked” by the allegations and that due process of investigations will be followed.
In an interview with Mumbai Mirror, earlier on Tuesday Kumar denied all claims made against him and asked the writer of the blog to come forward and file a police complaint.
“I unconditionally and unequivocally deny all these allegations. Social media has already declared me an offender, but I am ready to address all the allegations against me. I am open to receiving a police complaint so that I can respond legally as well.”
He is ready to be put under trial for the same.
No official police complaints have been filed so far, and no evidence has been sought over the allegations.
In response to allegations of harassment by filmmaker Reema Sengupta, he acknowledged that they did indeed work together but that his “compliment” didn’t amount to harassment.
In response to ex-TVF employee Aayushi Aggarwal’s allegations that she, too, had been harassed by Kumar, he said the complaint was “handled as it would be at any other corporate office” and a colleague of hers was found guilty of misconduct and asked to leave.
Through it all, Twitter users have united in demanding that investigations be launched, due process be followed, and that these complaints be handled by legally mandated internal investigations and a sexual harassment prevention committee.
Apologise and make a stellar example of your company. Baseline: We’re not going to trust you if you have done nothing to inspire trust.
— udnan (@nandu) March 13, 2017
If TVF is a registered company with more than 10 employees, toh Sexual Harassment Cell kyo nahi hai? Pehla toh yehi explanation deni chahiye
— N (@_morphiine_) March 13, 2017
One last thing from my end on sexual harassment, impact > intent. If someone accuses you, you may want to relook at your actions.
— Rashi (@mizarcle) March 13, 2017
In the 48 hours since allegations surfaced, TVF employees issued threats to the alleged victims, attempted to discredit the multiple complaints by discrediting one anonymous post, and Kumar himself conflated “compliments” with “harassment”. Only once has an investigation been promised, and it was in a tweet by Nidhi Bisht.