India’s brush with MeToo seems to be going beyond hashtags and spreadsheets. Nearly a year after allegations of sexual harassment were leveled against Seed fund co-founder Mahesh Murthy, he was arrested on 8th Feb 2018. Reacting to the arrest, author Rashmi Bansal, who accused Murthy of harassing her in April last year, said she was happy to hear that the case was moving towards its logical conclusion. “I felt compelled to speak about what I went through after I realized that a couple of young girls had spoken out and no one was willing to believe them. I thought to myself…Oh my God! This is still happening,” Bansal said. She added that she had received a lot of support after she went public with her experience. “I hope this is a signal to people in positions of power that they must be wise and responsible,” she added.
The first person to speak out was an entrepreneur who wrote on her LinkedIn page that she had finally gathered the courage to make public a lewd message from Murthy as a response to her Christmas greetings. Soon, two other entrepreneurs made messages sent by Murthy public, opening a Pandora’s Box. By April there were over half a dozen women, including Bansal, who alleged that Murthy had in conversations, texts and meetings behaved inappropriately with them.
On his part, Murthy denied the allegations in a long post on medium.com dismissing the complaints as misunderstandings and fabrications by disgruntled people.
Pankaj Mishra, co-founder and writer of Factor Daily which published several stories on Murthy’s alleged transgressions, said the series was meant to focus attention on the bro culture and sexual harassment prevalent in India’s tech and startup ecosystem. “Much of what is covered in mainstream media is about startup glory, not the dark underbelly of the ecosystem. We believe our series on Mr. Murthy and similar other stories reflect the angst and trauma of women wronged,” he said. On Murthy’s arrest, Mishra said, “We will wait for the law to take its course and continue to report on such stories.”
Report By: Nikita Goel, Convener, INBA