OML's response to sexual harassment allegations undermines women's trauma, insults #MeToo movement at large

Entertainment company Only Much Louder, which is known for conducting events like NH7 Weekender and having major names from the culture and comedy world on its roster, has been at the centre of sexual harassment allegations. The Caravan magazine, in its November issue, carried an article featuring accounts of women who had experienced sexual harassment at the workplace while employed with OML — only to have their concerns brushed aside and systematically belittled by the organisation. The article presented details about the allegedly problematic work culture at the company, while reporting that founder and CEO Vijay Nair acted "brazenly and with impunity". Only Much Louder responded to the details presented in the article in a statement posted on Facebook. Tanushree Singh, a former OML employee, who spoke about being sexually harassed while at the company, in the Caravan magazine report, has responded to the post.

***

The silence from the music and entertainment industry, barring Azadi Records and Disco Puppet recently, on The Caravan magazine article about OML and Vijay Nair has been eerily deafening.

Experiencing it all over again after five years, at this scale, along with OML's tone deaf statement has been hurtful beyond words. I tried distancing myself from this disappointment for a while, to take care of my mental health, but there are certain things that need to be said that go to show the web of lies OML has weaved in its statement — which not only undermines the pain and trauma of several women who took the courage to share their stories but is also incredibly insulting to the #MeToo movement at large:

1. OML has shamelessly called out parts of my story as 'not true' — these are the bits that turn the spotlight on people who profit most from running OML i.e. the current senior management including its CEO. I have nothing to gain from falsely maligning people who lead an industry I left behind years ago and everything mentioned in the Caravan piece about my experience is 100 percent true. I've suffered immensely in this process, both mentally and financially, but it was important to speak up and I have no regrets.

2. OML stating that they went above and beyond their 'legal' obligation in my case, is not only offensive but also a display of a desperate attempt at arm twisting the law. Any decent lawyer worth a penny and sound moral judgment will tell you that OML should not have dragged its feet for seven whole months to form the ICC (Internal Complaints Committee). And to make it sound like a huge ‘favour’ was done to me by carrying out a shoddy investigation later in the name of bare minimum compliance is utterly shameful on their part.

metoo 825

3. While OML might have made efforts recently to take sexual harassment at workplace more seriously, the fact remains that a few years ago this was never a priority. On 23 August 2013, i.e. a couple of months after OML dismissed my complaint as a 'personal issue', I sent an email to Tulika Yadav (my then immediate boss) expressing my discomfort regarding a few new male employees because of their demeanour/behaviour and also asking if and when OML was going to do a workshop on the prevention of sexual harassment at workplace. I never received a response.

4. As mentioned in the article, Tulika Yadav had asked me to speak to a woman heading a leading youth-based NGO in Delhi regarding my experience to ease my stress as I wasn't doing too well emotionally. I was also told that she'd be leading the ICC eventually (which didn't happen). On 20 September 2013, I wrote a deeply personal email to this individual, explaining in detail the distress I was in and the entire chain of events concerning the behaviour of the senior management, all of which has been mentioned now five years later in the article. My story has remained the same from the beginning and I've always held my ground. (I still have the above mentioned email exchange).

5. Gaurav Dewani had harassed another OML employee, which I had brought to the attention of OML. This was immediately dismissed on the grounds that it was not brought to their attention earlier and that she was no longer employed at OML — a statement which Vijay Nair also gave to everyone when a company meeting was called a day before NH7 Weekender 2013 (Kolkata) after my mass email to OML employees. This matter was never inquired or looked into properly.

6. During the ICC investigation I requested this employee to testify for me regarding Gaurav Dewani's behaviour (I have proof of this conversation), to which she agreed and later backed out because she was scared and OML had been her first job post-college. She contacted me after the Caravan article was published and apologised for not being able to take a stand back then. But what is more important to note here is that despite being aware of two incidences where Gaurav Dewani had harassed employees, OML chose to have a predator employed with them for another three years. A sexual predator was given a 'warning letter', while scores of employees at OML are fired for far less every year.

7. I was never allowed a fair trial in the ICC investigation, which is a violation of the PoSH Act (Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace). According to the act, 'a copy of the findings of the investigation should be made available to both the parties, enabling them to make representations against the findings before the committee.' But I was never allowed this opportunity. I received the findings of the investigation around 7 February 2014, and since then I sent three emails to the ICC asking for the warning letter issued to Gaurav, requesting more transparency in the investigation, asking why certain parts of my statement were redacted from the ICC report, and also countering several loopholes in the investigation which proved that Gaurav was not telling the truth. But not one person from the ICC bothered to reply to or acknowledge my requests. The investigation ended with me quitting OML and leaving the music and entertainment industry altogether.

'Due process' for me was nothing but a long and painful series of events that left me more traumatised than I already was.

***

Following is the statement from the former OML employee who made a sexual harassment complaint against Girish Raj — which has also been mentioned in Caravan. She chooses to remain anonymous and I respect her decision:

"I worked in OML from 2015 to 2017. Today, I am neither present in the same industry nor do I live in the same country as OML and have no association with the company, whatsoever. OML in its statement chose to share the email I wrote to the ICC after the inquiry was closed and tried to portray me as a liar. What it didn't choose to share was that due process was not followed as per the PoSH Act. When I faced sexual harassment, I had no expectation from the company because —

1. I had never heard of PoSh in my first year of being with the company, therefore had no idea who I could go speak with.

2. I personally heard several OML employees call Tanushree names, blaming her even years after she had left the company. This instilled fear in me. Thus, when a sexual harassment workshop took place (in January 2016) and I decided to complain, I was grateful that the company took a step at all (something that was mentioned in the article). However, I was not separated from Girish Raj at the work place and neither was I, at any duration, made aware of the following options as described in the PoSh act: (a) transfer the aggrieved woman or the respondent to any other workplace; or (b) grant leave to the aggrieved woman up to a period of three months; or (c) grant such other relief to the aggrieved woman.

As a result of this, not only did I see Girish Raj in office every day (until I myself decided to take a transfer to Delhi), but people within the organisation, some who were part of the ICC chose to crack jokes and laugh with him within office premises, while the inquiry was ongoing. Although I did not have to report to him, he continued to work in the same department. All this combined led to months of trauma and self-doubt. I never shared my hesitation with the company about not being separated from Girish at the work place because I was never made aware of this option in the first place during the workshop or the inquiry.

While the company claims I have omitted several key details, I shared every detail truthfully with the Caravan reporters and they shared my story as it is without painting it any other way. To live with the sexual harassment episode followed by the company's statement has been thoroughly painful and traumatic. Perhaps if the company owned up or acknowledged their mistakes, I wouldn't go through this trauma twice?"

This post originally appeared on Facebook and has been republished here with the writer's permission.

Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.

Updated Date: Nov 29, 2018 20:12:26 IST

Also See