Mahajan alleges Khare’s close association with BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar is protecting him. Khare claims he was approached with ‘settlement offers’.
New Delhi: As the #MeToo movement rages in India, political commentator Sonam Mahajan Thursday said she would move to initiate criminal proceedings against Abhinav Khare, her former supervisor and Asianet chief operating officer, whom she had accused of sexual harassment last year.
Speaking to ThePrint, the Right-leaning social media influencer alleged that Khare is being protected because he is known to be a close aide of Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and founder of private equity firm Jupiter Capital.
Asianet is one of the portfolio companies of Jupiter Capital.
Mahajan’s allegations come in the wake of Khare’s accusation that she was running a smear campaign to extort money from him.
Khare made the statement months after he was found guilty of sexual harassment by an Ad Hoc Complaints Committee (ADCC) set up by the NGO Namma Bengaluru Foundation (NBF), where Mahajan was employed at the time.
The NGO was founded by Chandrasekhar. However, his communications manager said he isn’t involved in the day-to-day affairs of the NGO.
A statement by his office Wednesday said that Chandrasekhar never met Mahajan, except once in an elevator. It said she was not a member of his office or team, a claim she refuted.
The latest salvo from Mahajan came after Khare violated a gag order which he obtained himself from a Bengaluru court on 29 September. Khare had successfully filed for a stay on the ADCC report in the same court on 28 September.
“This is a clear of abuse of law and legal intimidation. He is trying to silence me,” said Mahajan.
Khare obtained the order after Mahajan put out a series of tweets on 7 October, as part of the #MeToo movement. However, in her tweets, she didn’t name anyone.
In her tweets, she asked for protection from a “powerful and vindictive” man who didn’t act on her complaints despite his proclaimed zero-tolerance policy on the matter. Though she didn’t name anyone, she was reportedly referring to Chandrasekhar.
After Khare’s statement Thursday, the 30-year old influencer said that by sharing “his concocted version with the media”, Khare had violated the spirit of the gag order.
“(His statements are) a violation of my fundamental right to live with dignity and privacy enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, hence I am speaking now,” said Mahajan.
Khare told ThePrint that he was forced to come on record and issue the statement because Mahajan was pushing him to “settle” by paying a seven-figure sum. He claimed “big political weights” approached him with monetary settlements offers on behalf of Mahajan.
“Didn’t want my reputation to be dragged into the mud like this,” said the executive.
Mahajan, however, claimed that a senior BJP leader from Karnataka approached her to “settle the matter since elections are near”.
“If need be, I will make those messages public as well,” she told ThePrint.
The complaints committee
Mahajan lodged a formal complaint against Khare, she claimed, within a month of joining the NBF.
As NBF lacked a court-mandated Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), an external complaints committee was set up in December 2017.
The committee concluded its investigation in June this year and found Khare guilty of the allegations.
Also read: The women who are not for #Metoo in India
It recommended the NBF issue a written reprimand to Khare. The committee also asked Khare to tender a written apology to Mahajan, attend gender sensitisation classes and be subjected to a “real consequence” which was left to the discretion of the NBF.
The report, however, only made the recommendations since Khare is not employed by the NBF.
But in observations, the report noted “bad moral character”, “vengeful attitude” and inconsistency on part of Mahajan. It also noted an “ulterior motive” on her part.
Mahajan claimed she objected to the observations at the time because “they were false and defamatory in nature”, and asked them to substantiate.
The NGO, which constituted the committee, released a statement on Wednesday asserting that it acted in accordance with the law. It added that it will move court to state the facts “about our actions and conduct” in the case.
The Bengaluru court will continue hearing Khare’s case on 31 October.
The report has been updated to accurately reflect that Sonam Mahajan was approached to “settle the matter” only by a BJP leader from Karnataka not by a Central minister.