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FWICE to set up cell to look into complaints of sexual harassment

Three members of each affiliated association of film and TV workers will be on the committee. And till a court ruling, the FWICE and its 24 associations may also stay away from the accused professionally.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images - Ashoke Pandit

Mayur Lookhar

With cases of sexual harassment in the film industry coming to light almost on a daily basis, the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE) has finally decided to set up a cell to redress these grievances.

The announcement was made by FWICE president BN Tiwari and the federation's chief adviser Ashoke Pandit, accompanied by treasurer Gangeshwar Shrivastav and general secretary Ashok Dubey.

“We are pained to know of the cases of [harassment] of females working in the film and TV industry and concerned for the women in distress," the federation said in a statement. "On behalf of the executive committee of the FWICE, we strongly condemn such incidents happening against any gender.”

The executive committee announced that it will set up a cell to investigate complaints of sexual harassment. Three members from each of the 24 film and TV workers' associations affiliated with the FWICE will be part of the redress cell. And till a court clears the accused of charges, the FWICE and its 24 affiliated associations will not work with him or her. The FWICE's lawyers will guide the victims in the court cases, the federation said.

The FWICE has already shot off show-cause notices to actors Alok Nath and Nana Patekar and filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, who have been accused of sexual harassment or worse.

Speaking at the press conference, Pandit said, “We are concerned by the issues that have been raised in the industry. Many victims have come forward. The federation supports the #MeToo movement to protect the dignity and honour of women in the industry.”

Pandit said the federation would look into all manner of harassment, including the notorious 'casting couch'. But the actor-filmmaker also cautioned that the redress cell cannot be misused to settle scores against another. 

The FWICE is taking the issue of women's security seriously and will request producers to ensure that female artistes and crew are provided transport after late-night shoots.

“The industry does not want [sexual offences] to happen," Pandit said. "We request the media, however, to not demonize the industry. Lakhs of women work in our industry, and with dignity. Certain wrongs have happened, we will fight them. Let us create the kind of atmosphere where working conditions are good, every woman feels protected. Today we take a vow that this nuisance, this cancer will be treated.”

Tiwari said, “We have also formed an awareness/legal cell that will include four women. The group will visit the sets of films and shows and tell artistes/crew members to report any matter of sexual abuse."

In her complaint, Tanushree Dutta had not only accused Patekar of misbehaviour but also blamed choreographer Ganesh Acharya and Horn OK Pleassss (2009) director Rakesh Sarang for the incident.

Pandit said all those involved in the case would be questioned. “We had a meeting in the morning," he said. "All those who are facing accusations in various cases, we will send them show-cause notices. We are not saying you have committed a crime, we have to give an opportunity to the other side too. They should come and explain themselves. If they don't come forward, then the federation is within its rights to boycott such people." 

A few days ago, Pandit had appeared on a television new channel where he appeared to back Patekar in his fight with Dutta.

Some reports said Pandit had called Dutta a 'mastermind' to gain publicity. But he clarified today that he is not taking sides in the matter. “As far as the Tanushree Dutta case is concerned, I have my reservations and I want Nana Patekar to be heard. As I said, we stand by all victims, but if this is misused, we will fight that also.”

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