#MeToo: 2 Journos Accuse Anchor Gaurav Sawant of Sexual Misconduct
Gaurav Sawant said the allegations made by Vidya Krishnan are “irresponsible” and “completely false.”
After Vidya Krishnan, a former health editor at The Hindu, accused India Today’s Executive Editor Gaurav Sawant of molesting her in 2003 during a reporting assignment in Beas, Punjab, a new allegation of inappropriate conduct has surfaced against Sawant.
On 13 November, journalist Kanika Gahlaut alleged on Twitter that Sawant had “lunged” at her when she was looking for a place to smoke while they were attending a group conclave.
Sawant has not reacted to Gahlaut’s allegation yet.
Sawant Denies Krishnan’s Charges
Denying Vidya Krishnan’s charges, Sawant said on 12 November that the allegations were “irresponsible, baseless, and completely false.” Thanking his family, friends and viewers, he wrote on Twitter that he “will take full legal action.”
In a statement to NDTV, the India Today has said that the organisation is in “no position” to comment on the matter as Sawant was not employed with the group in 2013. However, the group said it had asked Sawant to give an explanation on the allegations.
“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.”India Today statement, as told to NDTV
Krishnan, in an interview with The Caravan, narrates the incident and talks about the lack of options survivors of sexual misconduct had at that time, and the lax in turning Vishakha guidelines into law.
The article highlights the skewed balance of power between a senior journalist and a reporter at the start of her career. The story also details how Krishnan was emboldened by the Harvey Weinstein incident in 2017, and had at the time messaged the author of the piece that if she ever decided to interview female journalists on sexual assault in India’s newsrooms, Krishnan would be “willing to go on the record”.
The report comes in the wake of India’s #MeToo movement, which has named noted personalities in Bollywood, Indian media, business, etc. for sexual misconduct.
The Incident From 2003
In the interview, Krishnan recalls how her ‘teacher figure’, Gaurav Sawant, had sexually harassed her for the most part of the 2003 trip. She was the only female covering the defence beat as an employee of The Pioneer. While in a jeep, Krishnan alleges that Sawant placed his hand on her shoulder, which she says had made her uncomfortable – a discomfort, she says, she had made evident. Then, to Krishnan’s horror, Sawant allegedly shifted his hand to her breast. The ordeal had ended only when the group stopped for lunch, following which, he changed his place, she recalls.
It did not end there. Later that night, the report states, Krishnan received a text message from Sawant asking her to come into his room. She faintly recalls what he’d said, and that he had specified having "nothing naughty" on his mind. Krishnan alleges that Sawant had wanted to get into a bathtub with her.
Despite her negative responses, Sawant had allegedly knocked on Krishnan’s door, and within minutes, had “unzipped” his pants and tried “to force her hand towards his penis”.
“I felt like he was overpowering me, which is why I started screaming,” Krishnan says. “I think there was some sort of decency where he was like, ‘Okay, I can’t rape her’, so he went away at that point.”
The Most ‘Sensible’ Option
Vidya Krishnan had discussed the incident with her boyfriend and decided that the most sensible way of tackling it was by keeping her silence. She adds that at the time, she had thought that no one would believe her, and the possibility of being sent on assignments again would end.
As decided, upon her return from the reporting assignment, Krishnan never raised the issue. To her knowledge, an internal complaints committee did not exist. Most of the people she confided in told her to not go on record, considering her experience.
Fifteen years later, she said it was her moral responsibility to tell her story for the sake of other women and for the sake of being at peace herself.
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