Guest Post by Shehla Rashid
Mar 21, Delhi: In a shocking revelation that has triggered panic amongst the media fraternity, renowned media tycoon, Ameer Jain, who is Vice-Chairman of the prestigious Parrot, Caveman & Co. Ltd, has been accused of sexual harassment by an employee of The Slimes of India newspaper, namely Aaj Faker Shah. Parrot, Caveman & Co. Ltd. (PCCL) is the group that owns Slimes of India, Slimes Now, Economic Slimes, Radio Tirchi, Movies Now and Then, Dhoom, Navbharat Slimes, Mumbai Broken Mirror and numerous other media outlets.
After the sexual harassment case filed by an employee of a major news magazine against its high profile editor some years ago, this is the most high-profile case of sexual harassment at the workplace in the media fraternity and is likely to result in a public spectacle, as the complainant, Aaj Faker Shah, has taken to Twitter to publicly make serious accusations of sexual assault against Jain. Normally, in cases of sexual harassment, the complainant must be accorded due anonymity. However, Shah reasons that he was forced to take this extreme step because the Slimes Group, in total violation of the norms prescribed by the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act (2013), sat on his complaint, victimised him for speaking out against Jain and even threatened to sack him. This reflects the state of implementation of the Workplace Harassment Law, rules for which were notified in 2014.
After his accusations went viral, with Twitter users taking positions for and against Ameer Jain, the complainant, Aaj Faker Shah, a young employee, has now ‘protected’ his tweets. Attempts to reach either the complainant or the accused failed.
However, the Delhi Police has registered a case suo moto, and has started to investigate the matter, after instructions from the National Commission for Women. As part of preliminary investigation, the Delhi Police has requested Google and YouTube to furnish the search history of Mr. Ameer Jain, the defendant in the case. Highly placed sources in the Delhi Police have said that Jain’s search history hinted toward a dangerous tilt of mind, as his search history included a lot of content related to non-consensual sexual acts, child pornography, etc. This has led to tremendous embarrassment for the Slimes Group. The fact that the Slimes Group owns a disproportionate number of media outlets means that this issue is being completely blacked out from mainstream media. No electronic or print outlet owned by the PCCL is reporting the issue. The issue is, however, being reported by rival media groups that have now begun to see an opportunity to cause commercial damage to PCCL.
Besides all the embarrassing search items found in Ameer Jain’s Google and YouTube history, it is submitted by the Delhi Police in the High Court that the night when Aaj Faker Shah walked into Jain’s room and was sexually assaulted, the latter had been watching videos related to non-consensual sexual activity on YouTube.
Ameer Jain’s wife and daughter were confronted by mediapersons at the Delhi High Court where the case is being heard. Visibly devastated, Mrs. Jain refused to comment on the incident and asked mediapersons to show some sensitivity toward their family whose reputation is now being destroyed by the “careless attitude of opportunist media houses which thrive on sensationalism.” His daughter, Ms. Jain who is an artist said that “media must introspect before publishing sensationalist news that can harm the reputation of their family.” She was clearly disturbed, as the news of the case has led to a social boycott of the Jain family, as sexual harassment is an issue that our society takes very seriously, not to mention the stigma around cases of sexual harassment.
However, inside the Delhi High Court, the case took a strange turn. The defence lawyer accused Aaj Faker Shah of lying and called him “mentally disturbed”, a claim that the complainant’s lawyer completely denied. However, Ameer Jain’s lawyer produced medical bills that Aaj Faker Shah had submitted to his employer, SOI, in order to avail of medical reimbursement available to all SOI staffers. However, Aaj Faker Shah’s lawyer objected to the complainant’s medical history being raked up. Aaj Faker Shah is being represented by powerful Delhi-based lawyer, John Doe, who passionately argued that “unnecessary references to my client’s medical history is an attempt to divert the case from the fact that Ameer Jain has inflicted physical, sexual, mental and psychological violence on Aaj Faker Shah. What should be the subject of discussion is the violence against my client, and not his medical history. Also, it is totally unethical on part of Slimes Group to provide the details of my client’s medical bills to the defendant. Ameer Jain is abusing his position as Vice-Chairman of the group to divert the focus of the case from the treatment meted out to Mr. Shah, a young reporter who is struggling to make a life for himself in the National Capital, leaving behind his poor family in Bihar.”
Ameer Jain’s lawyer said that Shah had been on anti-depressants for a long time. He had been prescribed Flunil (20 mg) and Zolfresh (5 mg) on August 27, 2016. The first is used to treat depression and OCD while the latter is used to induce sleep. On September 9, he was prescribed Lonazep that’s used to treat fits, panic attacks and agoraphobia (fear of public places). Shah had also claimed reimbursement for a drug called Pari 10, an anti-depressant.
Times look bad for the Slimes Group, but we hope that justice will be done.
What you have just read is neither false, nor true, but a work of fiction and satire.
But what if I had one million followers on Facebook and I were to write, without any proof or basis, that an employee of a major news daily, has accused the Vice-Chairman of the Corporation that owns the daily of molesting him? What if I were to write, further, without any proof or basis, that the Vice-Chairman’s Google search history has revealed that he looked up a lot of non-consensual pornography on the Internet? Also, what if I were to add another imaginary detail- that, on the night when The employee entered the Vice-Chairman’s room and was subsequently molested, he (the Vice-Chairman) had been watching child pornography on the Internet ? Obviously, such a news would create panic amongst the Vice-Chairman’s family members and cause loss of reputation to them. More importantly, what if Delhi Police were to clarify that the news is false? What if the police were to clarify that they never sought any data pertaining to the Vice Chairman’s search history from Google or YouTube, in the first place? This would clearly establish that my Facebook post, read by millions and shared by lakhs, was false, baseless, defamatory and malicious. The least that I would be required to do after such an expose is, apologise unconditionally and admit my mistake. However, if, instead of apologising or making up for the mistake, what if I go around cockily saying that, “If Delhi Police doesn’t have the Vice-Chairman’s search history, how do we know that he did not watch non-consent or child porn videos?”
Well, this is exactly what Times of India- India’s largest English daily- did. TOI published a fake news on its front page, insinuating that the missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmed was inspired by ISIS and was eager to join ISIS, based on a fictional ‘search history’. When the Delhi Police refuted the story as baseless, as Delhi Police had never sought Najeeb’s search history from Google, Raj Shekhar Jha – the TOI reporter who filed the story- took to Twitter to defend his story with the ‘reasoning’ that precisely because Najeeb’s search history was unavailable, how could we say with certainty that he did not watch ISIS videos! It does not occur to Jha that he should apologise for spreading misinformation at such a massive scale and defaming a young student who is missing for over five months.
Also, the TOI story included a lot of unnecessary references to Najeeb’s sleep disorder and it went on to list the various ‘indications’ for some medicines, falsely insinuating that Najeeb was depressed, suffering from agoraphobia, OCD, fits, etc. whereas he was on medication simply for insomnia. In our little fictional piece above, the references to Aaj Faker Shah’s mental state as a ploy to divert attention from the issue of violence against him alludes to the attempts by Raj Shekhar Jha, in real life, to portray Najeeb as mentally disturbed and, thus, divert attention from ABVP’s role in the incident and the group violence against Najeeb by ABVP members.
To reiterate, the molestation story is fictional and is only a satire on the manner in which TOI has played with the reputation of Najeeb and his family, rendering them vulnerable to social boycott, stigma and even violence. The Times of India has produced exactly such a fiction and attempted, unlike me, to pass it off as fact. TOI must own up to this disaster and make up for it by prominently publishing an apology and taking all other necessary steps to compensate for the damage that it has caused. Najeeb Ahmed, his family and the readers of the Times of India, deserve nothing less than this.
Shehla Rashid is a research scholar at JNU, a student activist with All India Students’ Association (AISA) and is actively involved with the #BringBackNajeeb Campaign. She is a former Vice-President of the Jawahalal Nehru University Students Union