Gaurav Sawant, the executive editor of India Today news channel, has been accused of sexual harassment by journalist Vidya Krishnan, who has narrated her ordeal to The Caravan magazine’s Nikita Saxena. Vidya says she was sexually harassed by Gaurav Sawant while they were on a reporting trip to Beas, a town in Punjab.
The article begins with how Vidya was first introduced to Gaurav – he was a guest lecturer at Amity University, where she was studying journalism. Vidya, who faced opposition over her career choice at home, was determined to become successful and looked up to Gaurav as a role model. The article goes on to narrate how Vidya got a job at The Pioneer in 2003 and was asked to cover a peacetime drill at Beas.
“I was really excited about being counted, being sent from Pioneer with all the supposedly senior journalists,” Vidya told Nikita Saxena, the author of the Caravan article. Gaurav, who had covered the Kargil war from the battlefront in 1999, was a part of the group of journalists she was travelling with. The group was traveling in an Army jeep to Beas when Gaurav, who was sitting behind her, allegedly touched her on her right shoulder and then his hand gradually moved to her breast. Gaurav later pretended as though nothing had happened, Vidya says.
When the group returned to their hotel rooms in the evening, Vidya says she received a message from Gaurav that he wanted her to come to his room. When Vidya tried to brush him off politely, Gaurav reportedly said that what he had in mind was “nothing naughty” and he “just wanted to get into a bathtub with her.” Gaurav then came to her room unexpectedly, she says, and dropped his pants and tried to sexually assault her. She tried to push him away, but could not, Vidya says.
“I felt like he was overpowering me, which is why in my panic I started screaming,” Vidya’s response managed to drive Gaurav off, who pretended as if nothing had happened the next day.
When she returned to New Delhi, Vidya resumed her work at The Pioneer. “What was I going to do? Get him fired? He was a star reporter. He was in a different organisation,” she says. This was six years before the law mandating the formation of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in organisations was passed by the Parliament.
Last year, Vidya had reached out to Nikita Saxena stating that she was willing to go on record if someone was willing to write about sexual harassment of women in newsrooms.
“I am not doing it because I want something done to Gaurav,” Vidya says, “I have literally nothing to gain out of this.” She adds that she wanted to do it for other women like her who are either at risk or have faced sexual harassment or assault at the workplace.
Gaurav denies allegations
Taking to Twitter, Gaurav Sawant called the Caravan article "irresponsible, baseless, and completely false." He added that he will be taking legal action.
The article published by Caravan is irresponsible, baseless, and completely false. I am talking to my lawyers and will take full legal action. So grateful to my family, friends, and viewers for their support.— GAURAV C SAWANT (@gauravcsawant) November 12, 2018
On Wednesday, Sawant tweeted that he has sent a defamation notice to Vidya Krishnan as well as Nikita Saxena, the author of the Caravan article.
I have sent a defamation notice to Caravan, Ms Nikita Saxena and Ms Vidya Krishnan through my lawyers. Will seek justice.— GAURAV C SAWANT (@gauravcsawant) November 14, 2018
Journalist Nidhi Razdan tweeted that when her organisation, NDTV, contacted India Today for a response, they said they were not in a position to investigate the matter but added that Gaurav Sawant has been asked for an explanation, “Nevertheless, Mr Sawant has been asked to provide an explanation. Besides dismissing the allegations entirely, he has informed us that he is consulting lawyers to seek legal remedy 2/n.”
India Today statement :— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) November 12, 2018
“Nevertheless, Mr. Sawant has been asked to provide an explanation. Besides dismissing the allegations entirely, he has informed us that he is consulting lawyers to seek legal remedy 2/n
(This article has been updated to include Sawant's tweet stating that he has sent a defamation notice to Krishnan as well as author Nikita Saxena.)