Within hours of being uploaded, The Wire pulled down Episode 318 of journalist Vinod Dua’s programme Jan Gan Man Ki Baat: Rafale Deal and Rising Fuel Prices. The episode reappeared this morning minus some bits where Dua essentially mocked the #MeToo campaign as trivial in an election year.
The earlier version of the show opened with Dua pointing out how the media had failed in asking the government questions on real issues. Instead, the media has been occupied with stories of “who sexually harassed whom how many years ago,” Dua says.
“Jo jo chunav nazdik aatein ja rahe hai, jo jo sawal puche jaane chahiye, wo background mai jaa rahe hai, na sarkaari media na darbari media unko utha raha hai, aur na hi akhbarein unko utha rahein hai …jo charcha mai hai woh ye hai ki kisne, kitne saal pehle, kiska sexual harassment kia, ya pareshaan kia, is par charcha chal rahi hai … jis mein kendra ke ek mantri bhi shaamil hain. Is mein thoda keechad mujhpe bhi uchala gaya hai … uska bhi main zikr karunga… (With the elections closing in, the questions that should be asked have been relegated to the background. Neither the Sarkari media nor Durbari media are asking these questions, newspapers aren’t asking them either. What is being debated upon is who, how many years ago, sexually harassed whom. A Union minister has also been named … and there has been some muck thrown at me too… I will mention this too…)”
Before going on to enumerate the questions that must be asked of the government, Dua takes another jibe at allegations that have tumbled out as part of the #MeToo campaign.
He says: “Sarkar se kaede se jo sawal puche jaane chahiye, jo ek dum chup gaye hain, is puri debate mai, is pure shor mai, ki kaun kaun pakda ja raha hai, ya kis kis par aarop lag rahe hain sirf… (the questions that must be asked of the government, those have been eclipsed in this entire debate, amidst the noise of who is getting caught, or against whom allegations have been levelled).”
What Dua seems to not get is that the media can still question the government about Rafale and rising fuel prices, among other things, while exercising due diligence in its coverage of sexual harassment allegations.
In the video that The Wire re-uploaded, Dua’s comments on the #MeToo campaign have been edited out. But bizarrely, the news site has retained his comments towards the end of the show, where Dua gives The Wire a week to investigate allegations levelled against him. He also decried all allegations against him as a figment of imagination.
In his closing remarks, Dua addresses the allegations levelled against him. He says, “Mujh per bhi wo kichad uchala gaya hai, ek aisa kichad, sexual harassment ka toh nai hai … pareshan karne ka (Some dirt has been flung at me—not of sexual harassment but troubling).
“30 saal pehle kisi mahila ko laga ki maine kuch aisa kia jisse ki unhe pareshani hui. (Thirty years ago some woman felt that I did something that troubled her),” Dua adds before saying this dirt (the allegations) can be levelled against anyone, whether it be a pope, a judge, a lawyer, a priest, an innocent man or a doctor: “Ab ye aisa kichad hai jo kisi padri ke choge per bhi lag sakta hai, judge ke choge pe bhi lag sakta hai, vakeel ke choge per bhi lag sakta hai, pujari pe bhi lag sakta hai, kisi shareef aadmi pe bhi lag sakta hai, doctor pe bhi lag sakta hai.”
He says, “Kichad ek dafe lag gaya, toh jis par pheka gaya, wo kya kar sakta hai siwaye iske ki wo inkar krein ki aisa nai hua hai. (The person who has been accused has no option but to deny these allegations.)”, and then labels all allegations levelled against him as “be-buniyaad (baseless)“. In addition, he says he would be suspending his show—which he does voluntarily, without charging a penny—for a week to allow The Wire to investigate the matter, if they wish to, in his absence.
“Main, jo mujh par aarop lagaya gaya hai, usko sire se nakar raha hu, kharij kar raha hun, ki wo bilkul bey-buniyaad hai, kalpana hai kisi ki, aisa kuch nai hua. Lekin, kyuki mai apke prati jawabdeh hu, The Wire ke prati jawab deh hu, is liye aj se … is karykram ko suspend kar raha hu ek hafte ke lie. Aaj 16 tarik hai, 23 tarik ko mai phir hazir ho hunga apke saamne ya toh apni aankhri alvida kehne ke lie, ya is karykarm ko age badhane ke liye. Taki ye jo hafta hai The Wire ne agar koi jaanch karni ho, tafteesh karni ho, maalumat karni ho, toh mere bina waha rahe kar sakte. 23 tarik ko aapse phir mulakaat hogi. (I deny all allegations levelled against me, they are completely baseless, they are a figment of someone’s imagination. But because I am answerable to you and The Wire…I am suspending this show for a week. It is 16th today, I’ll be back on the 23rd either to say my final goodbye or to take this show forward. In this one week, in my absence, The Wire can investigate.)”
While no one should be presumed guilty until a thorough investigation is conducted, Dua’s use of his show to delegitimise the #MeToo campaign, the accusations against him and giving a one-week ultimatum of sorts to The Wire is problematic, to say the least. Moreover, he seems to believe that an allegation of kissing someone by force does not amount to an allegation of sexual harassment.
Newslaundry reached out to The Wire‘s Managing Editor Monobina Gupta and Founding Editor Siddharth Varadarajan for a comment on Dua’s show. The questions and Varadarajan’s responses are produced below:
In episode 318 of Jan Gan Man Ki Baat, Vinod Dua has given The Wire a week’s time to investigate the allegations levelled against him. Dua has also dismissed all allegations as a figment of someone’s imagination. Can a fair enquiry be carried out in a week’s time? Your comments?
Dua said he is suspending his show for a week to allow The Wire to investigate the allegation. He said that at the end of the week, he will either resume his show or say farewell. As you may be aware, The Wire has set up an external committee to examine/investigate the allegation. Its members are keen to conclude their work quickly. For the purposes of their work, Mr Dua’s announcement of a weeklong suspension, and what happens at the end of a week, is irrelevant.
Does The Wire see it fit for Dua to put a video on The Wire‘s platform which essentially dismissed all allegations against him while an investigation was being carried out?No investigation against Dua has commenced. The ICC reached out to Ms Jain on October 15 and requested a formal complaint so as to commence its proceedings. No complaint has been received.The Wire has reported Ms Jain’s allegations against Mr Dua, as it has other non anonymous allegations while covering the MeToo movement. Mr Dua, like any accused person, has the right to dismiss these allegations. His dismissal of the charges, from the platform of his show on The Wire or any other media outlet, has no bearing on any investigation to be conducted against him.
On October 14, in a Facebook post, filmmaker Nishtha Jain had named Dua. Describing an incident that took place in June 1989, Jain wrote: “I was greeted with his typical sardonic smile. Before I could settle down he began telling a lewd sexual joke in that soft voice, barely opening his mouth. I don’t remember the joke but it wasn’t worth a laugh, just dirty.” Jain had gone for a job interview for a new gig that Dua was starting.
Soon after the incident, Jain got a job with Newstrack. In her post, Jain alleged that Dua would be waiting for her outside her office when she would be working late hours.
In another instance, Dua tried to kiss her, Jain alleged.
On October 14, The Wire issued a statement that the website’s Internal Complaints Committee had taken note of Jain’s allegations.
However, as of October 15, according to Jain’s Facebook post, The Wire was yet to contact her.
On October 17, The Wire announced that it has asked an external four-member committee, comprising a retired justice of the Supreme Court, a retired justice of the High Court, a retired Indian Foreign Service officer, and a retired professor to look into Jain’s allegation against Dua. In the statement, The Wire has also stated that the website had contacted Jain requesting her to send a formal complaint so that it could be processed. However, “no complaint has been received from Ms Jain yet”, the statement added.
Note: The piece has been updated with The Wire’s response.