On Sajid Khan receiving a national platform, Sona Mohapatra asks: “Should we participate in the “culture of silence”?”
A lot of controversy has recently surrounded Sajid Khan, a #MeToo accuser, receiving a national platform. Singer Sona Mohapatra is dismayed to see the #MeToo movement losing steam in India. She questions if one ought to participate in the “culture of silence” in light of the filmmaker’s success on national television thanks to a reality show.
“We lose if we speak up. We lose if we don’t. Right now, women who spoke up in the India MeToo movement are faced with that Hobson’s option. Should we give free PR and publicity to TV shows’ evil marketing teams and channels that give serial sex offenders like Sajjid Khan, Anu Malik, Vikas Behl, and others a hero’s welcome and positions of authority? Should we participate in the “culture of silence” and normalise this, or should we avoid participating in the troll mud-bath that results in us being labelled as divisive troublemakers, liars, attention seekers, and worse?” she asks.
The singer goes on to say, “Thereby sending a message to the world that yeah, if you are a woman wanting to be a professional, earn a money, & working, you need to be willing to suck up & “deal with it.” For me and I’m sure for the many brave ones in my sisterhood speaking up at the expense of their careers & mental serenity, the latter isn’t even an option.
In 2018, when the #MeToo movement was at its height in India, Mohapatra recounted her tale. She had levelled sexual misconduct allegations against musician Anu Malik and vocalist Kailash Kher.
She states that she is aware that it will take time to implement systemic change and that there is still much work to be done.
But the very least we can hope for from some of these individuals is an apology. I anticipate that the decent individuals who support the cause and celebrate “womanhood” during Navratri will truly be on our side. Because charity does really start at home, she adds, “those who are content to reap the benefits of serving as poster boys for “women’s causes” by virtue signalling with organisations like MARD should actually step up, speak up, and act in such crucial situations rather than when the issue is more conveniently elsewhere.
In reality, in order to address incidents of systemic abuse, she also urges for reforming the legal systems. “I reached out to the NCW with several testimonies of women who had spoken up about experiencing abuse in the hands of Anu Malik, some of whom were minors, but regrettably they are merely a toothless organisation on paper with no real powers, led by people with no formal education in gender studies or grassroots experience,” the author notes.
“Don’t even dare put the burden on the survivors of the same until we have re-looked and retuned this justice system to be able to deal with chronic serial abuse of power and harassment,” she continues.
She criticises those in the tiny screen sector for giving Sajid the platform as she draws to a close.
“It’s obvious to me that TV channels are a dying medium, whereas OTT platforms are not only producing more interesting, popular material for viewers, but have also shifted their focus in the wake of the Me Too movement and developed methods to deal with delicate issues. The former are struggling to exist and turning to these obnoxious and risky methods of praising perverts to gain cheap attention. Since there have been some positive changes in the sector, I would thus say that the glass is half full,” she says in closing.