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India Today’s Gaurav Sawant accused of sexual harassment

By NL Team

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Gaurav Sawant, Executive Editor at India Today, has been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting journalist Vidya Krishnan during a reporting trip in the Beas in 2003. A report in The Caravan details Krishnan’s experience.

Krishnan, then a young trainee journalist keen on making her mark in the field of journalism, was hired by The Pioneer in 2003 and her first assignment was to cover a peacetime drill in a military station at Beas along with other senior journalists, including Sawant. Sawant, at the time, was somewhat of a role model. “We used to get a lot of these boring, old lecturers, and suddenly this young guy came so there was a bit of talk around that,” said a batchmate of Krishnan.

The report says: “The Beas trip, however, was not the career breakthrough that Krishnan had imagined it would be. As she recounted, Sawant, the teacher figure that she looked up to, sexually harassed and assaulted her for the most part of the journey.”

Some time into the journey, Sawant allegedly placed his right hand on her shoulder; Krishnan was immediately uncomfortable but thought it was an accident. She tried to move away and readjust her position, thinking “maybe I am getting this wrong”, but then Sawant shifted his hand from her shoulder to her breast. “My body was frozen still,” said Krishnan. “I didn’t have the confidence to say anything.”

That night, Krishnan says she received a text message from Sawant saying that he wanted her to come to his room while emphasising that he had “nothing naughty” in mind. “He just wanted to get into a bathtub with her,” the article stated. Minutes after Krishnan politely declined, Sawant knocked on her door. Once she opened it, he let himself in. “In my mind, there was a fear I might have to end up doing what he wanted. I was not confident that I could stand my ground and say ‘no’,” Krishnan says.

Barely a few minutes after letting himself in, while he was still talking to her, Krishnan states that Sawant unzipped his pants and began to force her hand towards his penis. “He had not backed off … I had made it very visible to him that this was an unwelcome advance. He had not backed off,” Krishnan said. “I felt like he was overpowering me, which is why in my panic I started screaming … I think there was some sense of decency where he was like, ‘Okay, I can’t rape her’, so he went away at that point,” she added.

Krishnan states that her calling out Sawant for what he did to her “is entirely about me being at peace with myself”.

Sawant posted on Twitter and called the article “irresponsible” and “baseless”.

On Twitter, NDTV‘s executive editor Nidhi Razdan said NDTV had asked India Today for a statement. India Today called the article “distressing”.

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