Monitoring Desk: Bollywood star Zaira Wasim’s alleged harasser was taken into police custody Monday morning, Indian media reported, in what has become the latest case of abuse following a wave of similar incidents reported around the world over the past couple of months.
A visibly upset Wasim, 17, alleged on Sunday that she was harassed by a male passenger sitting behind her on a plane, narrating her ordeal via live video on Instagram and breaking down in tears halfway through.
The child star said she was on the Air Vistara flight from Delhi to Mumbai Saturday night when the man behind her extended and rested his foot on her armrest.
According to Indian media, authorities said the harasser — who has been identified as 39-year-old businessman Vikash Sachdev — was arrested from his Mumbai residence.
Sachdev was traced through his airline ticket, authorities explained, adding that he will be produced in the court today.
On Sunday, Omar Abdullah — the former chief minister of occupied Kashmir — had tweeted that the airline should disclose the passenger’s identity to the police and a case be filed for legal action.
The alleged assaulter has been booked under Indian IPC’s “Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and relevant sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO)”.
On the other hand, a report on Monday said Sachdev’s wife Divya “has accused the actress of doing a publicity stunt”.
“This girl has been influenced by fame and wrongly accused my husband Vikas,” the accused’s wife said, as per the publication, which cited Divya’s statement to entertainment website spotboye.com.
“Why did Zaira not raise an alarm then and there? Why did Zaira tweet two hours later? Zaira had her mother for company. Despite that, the two ladies chose not to make any noise… Why?
“His mama ji [mother] had passed away and he was not in the right frame of mind. He was feeling very low and asked for a blanket. He wanted to sleep. I am shocked at Zaira’s allegation.
“We know how important it is to respect a lady, our family upholds very high values. My husband is a family man. We have a nine-year-old child. Vikas can never misbehave with any lady in any manner.”
In her video statement, Wasim had said she was unable to record the incident “because the cabin lights were dimmed”.
Wasim — who made her Bollywood debut in last year’s Dangal — explained that she initially thought it was the turbulence in the aircraft that had caused the man’s foot to touch her.
“The lights were dimmed, so it was even worse.
“It continued for another 5-10 minutes and then I was sure of it. He kept nudging my shoulder and continued to move his foot up and down my back and neck” while she was “half-asleep”.
“Neither the passengers nor the crew came to my aid.
“This is terrible… No one will help us if we don’t decide to help ourselves.”
Vistara airline, on the other hand, issued two statements, one after the other. In its first one, the company had said it would look into the incident, adding that it had “zero tolerance for such behavior”.
In an update later, the airline stated that they are investigating the incident.
It also apologised to the actress, saying she has their complete support.
“Members of our senior management have flown to Mumbai to meet Wasim and assist in the investigation process,” the company added.
Starting with the Harvey Weinstein scandal, a flood of sexual harassment claims around the world over the past couple of months have led to complaints — and, in some cases, charges — against numerous, high-profile public figures.
The allegations inspired an online campaign — tagged #MeToo — as well as a march in Los Angeles and other cities to encourage men and women in all walks of life to reveal their own experiences with sexual harassment and assault, often years after they occurred.
It brought out despicable and traumatic incidents from numerous fields, including sports, politics, fashion, health services, and even world-level bodies such as the United Nations.