The head of news channel TV9 Bharatvarsh’s output division in Noida - Ajay Azad - has been accused by two women of sexual harassment. Both women filed a complaint within two days of each other this month.
TNM has accessed both the complaints in which the two women have accused Ajay of harassing, soliciting and intimidating them.
TV9, meanwhile, has reacted saying that the complaints were immediately committed to the Internal Committee (IC) as per guidelines and that Ajay has been sent on leave for the duration of the inquiry.
According to latest updates on Friday afternoon, Ajay Azad tendered his resignation to TV9 Bharatvarsh, which the channel accepted. He no longer works there.
शिकायतों और गवाहों को सुनने के बाद, मैनेजमेंट ने संपादक को नोटिस भेजा. इसके फौरन बाद ही, ICC ने पूरी जांच शुरू कर दी. प्रबंधन ने जांच पूरी होने तक संपादक को छुट्टी पर भेज दिया, जिसके बाद संपादक ने इस्तीफ़ा दे दिया है. प्रबन्धन ने इस्तीफ़ा तुरन्त प्रभाव से मंज़ूर कर लिया.— TV9 भारतवर्ष (@TV9Bharatvarsh) January 24, 2020
कार्यस्थल पर यौन शोषण के प्रति टीवी9 नेटवर्क जीरो टॉलरेंस की नीति अपनाता है. संस्थान कार्य स्थल पर महिला कर्मचारियों को सुरक्षित और बराबरी का माहौल मुहैया कराने के लिए प्रतिबद्ध है.— TV9 भारतवर्ष (@TV9Bharatvarsh) January 24, 2020
What the complaints say
In both of their cases, Ajay allegedly started by texting them about work, and then slowly went on to ask them about more personal things, like their family. Eventually, he started telling them to not address him as “sir”, and per the complainants, told them to consider him “their own” and talk to him about everything. He also allegedly tried to get the women to meet him outside, even suggesting to one that they take a hotel room.
Over the course of some weeks, the messages got more explicit, with him allegedly coercing the women to say that they love him, and address him with endearing terms like “jaan.” Both women say in the complaint that they were clear about their lack of interest in him from the beginning.
Both of them have expressed agony and disgust in their complaints that a man who was so respected and senior in the organisation went on to allegedly send indecent messages to them.
One of the women has written in her complaint that there were occasions that Ajay also touched her inappropriately.
In another incident she describes, from late last year, when Ajay allegedly waited till late at night in the office. “That night, he called me to [his office] on some pretext and tried to touch me very inappropriately,’” her complaint says. At this point, the sexual harassment had been going on for over a month, the complaint alleges.
Both the women have alleged that Ajay also tried to intimidate and lure them with work-related privileges when they didn't give into his advances, the complaints say.
Ajay apparently told both of them that they were special, implied they were more talented than others, and could take up more responsibilities at work and “move forward.” Much to the surprise of both, he also allegedly asked them to comment on the work of others - who was working well, who wasn’t, how many offs others had taken, etc.
“He would message late at night, and in the morning also. I would reply because I was scared as a junior,” one of the women wrote in her complaint.
There were also explicit messages. According to the complaint, one message in Hindi said, "I can't sleep. How well god has made you. Your body is perfect.”
Later, when the women kept resisting his advances, Ajay allegedly sent them threats about changing their departments or shifts as well.
While both women considered resigning from their jobs, the harassment ended up affecting one woman's mental health to the point where she got depressed. She wrote in her complaint that she also experienced suicidal thoughts.
TV9's full statement
“TV9 Group not only has zero tolerance for sexual harassment at workplace but also initiates action immediately as per law laid down. The complaints were immediately committed to the IC as per guidelines. Immediately after the IC served notice on the respondent for an inquiry, the management sent him on leave for the duration of the inquiry,” a TV9 spokesperson said.
“TV9 will not deviate a centimetre from the laid down procedures and will make all efforts to provide the complainants ‐- indeed all female employees -- a safe, sensitive and equal workplace,” the spokesperson added.
Note: This story has been updated.