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#MeToo: Journalist accuses senior editor at Catch News of inappropriate behaviour

Author: OpIndia Staff
Publication: Opindia.com
Date: October 17, 2018
URL:      https://www.opindia.com/2018/10/metoo-journalist-accuses-senior-editor-at-catch-news-of-inappropriate-behaviour/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Even as people debate and argue whether certain behaviour, especially which involves unwanted sexual advances towards women, falls under the workplace sexual harassment ambit, one more journalist has come forward with her #MeToo story where she has accused a senior editor at Catch News of making unwanted advances towards her.
I have been thinking a lot about gender lately ever since the #MeToo movement came to India. Silence was the complimentary breakfast that I forgot to eat when my gender was assigned to me and I have decided to share one of my many #MeToo stories:

When a young woman joins a newsroom, fresh out of college, the story is pretty much laid out for her and so it was no different for me. We are constantly preyed upon by men in positions of power from sleazy comments made on our appearances and clothing to being reduced to our looks and finally to the point where they invade our private spaces. While working for Catch News from June 2016 to April 2017, I was routinely harassed by a Senior Editor to the point that I became a subject of ridicule.

It was my first job and I always felt uncomfortable with any extra attention. Catch had this ritual of ordering cakes for every occasion and little did I know that I would begin to dread them. He would often insist that I cut these cakes saying that I was the youngest employee. And then one day he made a passing comment that I should always cut the cakes because, "I look nice in pictures." Embarrassed I just picked up the knife, cut the cake and hurriedly stepped away, trying to drown out the guffaws of the older men and women. I could have brushed it aside but it stayed with me.

He had the habit of inviting everyone for drinks after work and whenever I stayed back late to finish any assignment he would just stand by my desk and insist that I drop everything and accompany him in his car at once. I respectfully declined. Every single time. One day, he didn't say anything to me, but addressed another colleague while gesturing towards me, "Chalo chalo, isko utha ke bas gaadi mai bharlo." I was too stunned to reply. Again, the laughter echoed in the now almost empty newsroom. My ears rang all the way home despite the music in the earphones, almost as if I was listening to his deep laugh on loop.

Around Christmas, he brought wine and was serving it to the editorial team. I refused to drink it but he kept insisting. I firmly said no, to which he responded with a casual "Sharma kyun rahi ho? Ab toh sharmana warmana chod do yaar. Loosen up." He told me to drop my defences and be more accepting, almost forcing the glass of wine in my hand. The pantry area was already crammed and all eyes were on me, I quickly took a sip and left the office because I didn't want to create a scene.

On January 16, 2017 was the day he crossed the line. I remember the date because I had put in my papers on January 14, because the Catch Office was being shifted from Qutub Institutional Area to Greater Noida. A lot of other people had done the same. I resigned on a Saturday and the next Monday, I got a mail saying I can work from the Qutub office. Within minutes of receiving the mail, he came to the room where I was sitting with three of my colleagues. We were sitting in a small cubicle-like space, where the Speed Desk used to sit. I was almost on my way out when he came rushing in, blocking the only entrance o the cubicle. He said, "Dekho maine tumhare liye kar diya hai, you don't have to go there anymore." He went on to say, "Thank you bolo." I didn't know what he was talking about since I had never asked him to stop my transfer, I had straight up resigned. But between the confusion his voice came floating back to me, "Now, where is my hug?' Before I could even react, he went ahead and hugged me while I stood still with arms by my side. I couldn't figure out what was happening. After a few seconds, I moved back to get out of the embrace, which he had held onto pretty tightly. Not even once did I ask or expect him to get special permissions just for me. Others in my team had actually requested him to stay their transfer, but they didn't get immediate responses or the preferential treatment that I had.

During one of our shoots, I stood in the front porch of a politician's house in Lutyen's Delhi. My cheeks had turned red because of the sun, which the politician was quick to point out. This man decided to answer for me, "Pahaadi khoon hai na, toh ladkiyo ke gaal zaada jaldi laal ho jaate hai."

To those of you judging if this was a #MeToo story at all, let me ask you, how would you feel if you were constantly brought under the spotlight and showered with cheesy compliments and unwarranted attention at a workplace? How would you feel when you were reduced to your mere looks or age and not acknowledged for your work? I remember feeling like I was constantly under a radar. I kept feeling that I was being watched all the time. I was repeatedly put on a spot and made uncomfortable almost like routine. Eventually I did what every woman does: I questioned myself.

To those who would defend the work environment of Catch, saying it was a friendly place where people hugged all the time, I want to ask you how many of you go around hugging your bosses?

People who would address me as "choti" or "Gudiya" or "rosy cheeks" or tell me things like I should smile more often, please understand that an office is not the space to make such remarks. Stop using your authority to reduce us to our insecurities. I am tired of being forced to take the responsibility for a powerful man's behaviour. To be safe and to be protected from being harassed and violated should be a right and not a privilege. Nobody is happy to remain oppressed. Nobody is happy to be consumed in the spiral of silence where thousands of women are wondering if they can even say #MeToo

Shamita Harsh @Shamitaharsh
Silence was the complimentary breakfast that I forgot to eat when my gender was assigned to me and I have decided to share one of my many #MeToo stories
11:17 PM - Oct 16, 2018

Journalist Shamita Harsh took to Twitter to describe her story. She claims that during her time at Catch News, which was her first job, between June 2016 to April 2017, she was routinely harassed by a senior editor. Without naming him, she says that he would pass comments on her looks and make her feel uncomfortable. She describes that on more than one occasion she was offered drinks at workplace, which she declined since she was not comfortable.

She then says that on 16 January 2017, when the Catch News office shifted from Qutub Institutional Area to Greater Noida, and a lot of people had put in their papers, including her. However, she claims that this senior editor pulled some strings and stopped her transfer to Greater Noida, thereby allowing her to work from Qutub Institutional Area office. As a thank you, she says, he asked for a hug. She claims that she got this preferential treatment even though many of her colleagues who had actually requested for a transfer, were not attended to immediately.

Catch News is digital platform part of Rajasthan Patrika Group. In the course of the last few days, two women came forward and accused The Wire’s co-founder and founding editor Siddharth Bhatia as well as journalist Vinod Dua of sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement on social media has taken the country by a storm with many big industry names like Alok Nath, Rajat Kapoor, Varun Grover and comedians like Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba, co-founders of All India Bakchod being accused of sexual misconduct. Journalists like Prashant Jha and film director Vikas Bahl and many, many more have been named as perpetrators of harassment.
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