Posted by Fenil Seta
Hours after a female `staffer' accused Arunabh Kumar of sexual harassment, several women step out on social media revealing unsavoury encounters with him
Sanyukta Iyer (MUMBAI MIRROR; March 14, 2017)
Arunabh Kumar, CEO of the digital entertainment start-up The Viral Fever (TVF) has labeled allegations of sexual harassment against him as "fake." Speaking to the Mumbai Mirror on Monday evening, Kumar said he would request the woman making these allegations against him to either report the matter to the police or to the HR team at TVF where she allegedly worked. In the post on Medium, a New York-based free platform, the victim has alleged that Arunabh Kumar, 35, molested and harassed her for months, but has given no clues to her identity, except that she is a native of Muzaffarpur in Bihar and that she joined TVF as a 22-year-old in 2014.
The post has since been shared extensively on social media and Kumar is being pilloried. Some other women too have come forward to complain about Kumar himself and about TVF.
According to Kumar his company has not hired any woman from Muzaffarpur in the last the three years and added that they have complained to Medium about the defamatory post and have asked for it to be removed. Medium, he claims, has sought 48 hours for verification of the post. "If the post is fake, it will be removed," he says.
In the post on Medium titled `The Indian Uber - That Is TVF', the alleged victim who calls herself the Indian Fowler after Susan Fowler, the engineer who exposed instances for sexual harassment at Uber on social media last month, detailed the harassment she suffered at TVF "right from Pitchers to Tripling", two of the company's productions released in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
The victim writes that at parties Arunabh would try to lift her or would try and fall on her pretending to be drunk. Referring to a particular incident, she wrote that he once walked out of a meeting and called her to take some notes. "I walk up. He says it's time we do a quickie. I am stunned. And I told him I will go to the police. He said: 'Police to meri pocket me hai'."
Describing the entire Medium post as slanderous, Kumar says: "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. TVF is bigger than me and if there is a remote chance that I have done any wrong, let me be persecuted." But the Medium post is just one of the troubles that Arunabh Kumar now faces. Two more women have since made allegations of having suffered sexual harassment at TVF, one of them by Kumar, who is the largest stake holder at TVF valued at Rs 270 crore.
In an open letter on facebook on Monday, filmmaker Reema Sengupta has alleged that Arunabh repeatedly touched her inappropriately during a five-hour shoot for TVF. "As I talk, he finds some lame excuse to place his hand on my hand (which was on the table in his glass cabin). In the middle of the shoot, he touches my shoulder tattoo and tells me he finds it sexy. After every other shot, he would come over to the monitor to see how the shot looks, but at the same time graze his hand against my waist," she wrote in the post. While he accepts that Sengupta had filmed a promo for his company, he denies he misbehaved with her. "The kind of insinuations the FB post makes are untrue. I am a heterosexual, single man and when I find a woman sexy, I tell her she's sexy. I compliment women. Is that wrong? Having said that, I am very particular about my behavior - I will approach a woman, but never force myself," he says.
Another ex-employee of TVF, Aayushi Aggarwal, in an online post alleged she felt exploited at TVF and left the job "under very bad circumstances."
Referring to the post on Medium, Aggarwal wrote: "I hope things have worked out for you. It (TVF) is indeed no place for a woman. I would never recommend anybody to work there." Out of 200 employees at TVF, 80 are women.
While accepting that Aggarwal did complain of harassment during her employment with TVF, Kumar says that a committee was appointed to look in her complaints and a colleague of hers was found guilty of misconduct and asked to leave. "The entire process was handled as it would be at any other corporate office," he told this newspaper.