Firstpost's #MeToo Conversations: Sandhya Menon, Rituparna Chatterjee, Mahima Kukreja on making the movement truly inclusive

Ever since the second wave of #MeTooIndia allegations began trending on social media timelines, journalists Sandhya Menon (@TheRestlessQuil), Rituparna Chatterjee (@MasalaBai) and writer Mahima Kukreja (@AGirlOfHerWords) have been at the forefront of sharing as many of these survivor accounts as possible.

Kukreja highlighted instances where AIB collaborator Utsav Chakraborty had sent multiple women dick pics and asked them for nudes, Sandhya spoke out about her own experiences with sexual harassment at the hands of senior editors like KR Sreenivas, Gautam Adhikari and Manoj Ramachandran, while Chatterjee has been reporting on #MeToo stories from across India for Firstpost and other leading publications.

Collectively, they have helped bring accountability to several perpetrators of harassment — whether it was the resignations of some of these men from the positions of power/cultural currency they held, or at least forced them to acknowledge, in some measure, the degree of hurt they had caused.

Rituparna Chatterjee, Sandhya Menon, Meghna Pant, Mahima Kukreja and Kiran Manral at session 3 of #MeToo Conversations

Rituparna Chatterjee, Sandhya Menon, Meghna Pant, Mahima Kukreja and Kiran Manral at session 3 of #MeToo Conversations

At Firstpost's day-long panel discussions on #MeToo — #MeToo Conversations, moderated by award-winning writer Meghna Pant — the third session was given over to these women, and the writer Kiran Manral, who held forth at length on what being at the forefront of this second wave of the movement in India has meant.

The aim of this session was deceptively simple: to trace where and how the second wave of #MeTooIndia began.

Deceptively simple, because as the answers of the panelists made evident, #MeTooIndia has been a long time coming.

Raya Sarkar's List of Sexual Harassers in Academia (LoSHA) is widely considered the starting point of the #MeToo movement in India, and the four panelists reinforced this in the course of their session. Menon added that there had been a collective anger among women, and Twitter has been helpful in amplifying survivors' voices. Recalling the general criticism for Sarkar's efforts, she said that today the due process hasn't changed but names and faces have been added to the allegations.

Next, it was Chatterjee's turn to speak about the responsibility of the media in bringing out voices from all strata of Indian society: stories of Dalit women, stories from India's tier-2 and 3 cities, stories across genders. For Chatterjee, #MeToo has made possible a sisterhood that in turn, is helping women talk about their trauma — and own it.

Interestingly, Chatterjee also said that of all the women who had shared their stories with her, only one did not want to see her case through; the others were all ready to fight and put their names to their stories for the good of the larger movement.

Bringing forward these stories has been a tremendously stressful time for these women — make no mistake. Kukreja, for instance, described how she lost all track of time and how her DMs were constantly buzzing as more and more accounts of assault and trauma emerged. She also stressed that for #MeTooIndia to shed its tag of being an 'elite' social media movement and cause a true change in policy, the stigma survivors were subjected to, had to be done away with. She noted that with this second wave of #MeToo, the shame experienced over speaking out had reduced, and the majority of the voices were women's.

Kukreja further added that people have been generally supportive of the victims. and as the movement trickles down, girls are even sharing these things with their parents. Manral while citing CINTAA's apology to Tanushree Dutta, said that she could see a change in mindsets, and acceptance, legislation and reconciliation is the way to go.

Follow live updates and video stream from the summit here.


Updated Date: Oct 19, 2018 17:34 PM

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