- Vidya Krishnan alleged that she was molested years ago by Gaurav Sawant
- The account is "irresponsible, baseless, and completely false": Mr Sawant
- His employer, India Today said he has been asked to give an explanation
Journalist and TV anchor Gaurav Sawant has been accused by a journalist of sexually harassing her around 15 years ago. Vidya Krishnan has alleged in an account published by the news magazine "The Caravan" that she was molested years ago during an assignment by Mr Sawant, who allegedly also came to her hotel room and exposed himself.
Mr Sawant, now Executive Editor with India Today, has tweeted that the Caravan article is "irresponsible, baseless, and completely false". "I'm talking to my lawyers and will take full legal action. So grateful to my family, friends, and viewers for their support," he tweeted.
NDTV reached out to Mr Sawant's current employer India Today, which 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."
Vidya Krishnan, former health editor at The Hindu, said she was a newbie at The Pioneer when the incident allegedly took place. It was her first outstation assignment to cover a peace-time drill at a military station in Beas, Punjab, organised by the Indian Army, she said.
Mr Sawant, already a well-known defence correspondent at the time, was also on that trip. She was the only woman in the military vehicle in which the reporters' team was travelling. Ms Krishnan says Mr Sawant sat behind her and at one point, he allegedly placed his hand on her shoulder, then slid it to her breast.
She told the magazine she didn't react then even though her "body was frozen still". "I didn't feel secure enough to tell anybody and say, 'This is happening, make it stop.' I didn't have the confidence to say anything," she said.
The abuse escalated by that evening, she alleged.
That night, she was surprised to find Mr Sawant at her hotel room door. He allegedly let himself in and had said what he had in mind was "nothing naughty". He just wanted to get into a bathtub with her, Ms Krishnan alleged.
Mr Sawant then allegedly unzipped his pants and exposed himself, she alleged. "I felt like he was overpowering me, which is why in my panic I started screaming," she said.
As Ms Krishnan's voice got "louder and louder," he relented, the magazine reported.
"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," Ms Krishnan said.
She didn't complain to the management at The Pioneer and she was reluctant to approach Chandan Mitra, the editor and a former Rajya Sabha member of parliament, because of "how far down the food chain she was".
She added that it wasn't just professional considerations that stopped her from naming Mr Sawant, it was also her own social conditioning.
Ms Krishnan's allegations have surfaced in a tide of #MeToo stories that gained traction in India after Tanushree Dutta accused veteran actor Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her in 2008.
India caught up with the campaign a year after it exploded in the US with allegations of sexual assault and harassment against the Hollywood magnate Harvey Weinstein.
Several men in the media, entertainment, political and art worlds have been accused of offences ranging from sexual harassment to rape.
Last month, editor-turned-politician MJ Akbar, who had to resign as union minister over sex harassment allegations against him by 20 former colleagues, was accused of rape by a US-based journalist who worked with him over two decades ago. Mr Akbar has sued one of the accusers for defamation.
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