Is Miss India Niharika Singh’s account of alleged inappropriate behaviour from Nawazuddin Siddiqui another chapter in our rapidly fattening #MeToo India chronicle? Or is it just a consensual affair which went sour?

When the ‘Miss Lovely’ actor shared her ordeal of trying to find her footing in the misogynistic Hindi film industry, plenty of support poured in for her. However, not many are convinced if what transpired between her and Siddiqui could be classified as #MeToo. Several people have voiced their concern that we can’t let a consensual relationship gone sour hijack the #MeToo narrative. It could set a dangerous precedent, where people would dilute the effect of the movement by putting stories of bad relationships full of lies and deceit, but mutual nonetheless, on the same board as that of the accounts of women who faced exploitation, sexual misconduct and even rape at workplaces because some men misused their professional position and power to gain sexual favours.

One such voice is that of actor Kubra Sait who spoke in support of Siddiqui in a series of tweets.

Every now and then we come across a #MeToo account that divides opinion among even the most intense supporters of the movement.

Can you label a romantic relationship between two consenting adults as harassment on grounds that the man in question allegedly cheated? Singh herself has admitted in her account that when Siddiqui grabbed her, she gave in after a little coercion. Nowhere does she say that their sexual relationship made her uncomfortable. Or that Siddiqui forced himself on her. Or that she was violated on any grounds against her wishes.

SOME TAKEAWAYS-

  • Can Niharika Singh’s allegations against Nawazuddin Siddiqui be labelled as a #MeToo story?
  • Many voiced concerned that we couldn’t let a consensual relationship hijack the #MeToo narrative and put it on the wrong track.
  • Can you label a romantic relationship between two consenting adults as harassment on grounds that the man in question allegedly cheated?
  • The context is important here, because it puts Nawazuddin’s actions in a specific category.

It was the aftermath, however, when she ended things with him, that make Siddiqui look guilty. Singh has accused him of allegedly sabotaging her career by bad-mouthing her. We all know that he also took the liberty of essaying intimate details of his relationship with her, without taking her consent, in his now retracted memoir. Siddiqui was wrong in doing so, without a doubt. And if he tried to sabotage her career, then he is guilty of both toxicity and of entitlement too. But did he try to do all this to gain or on being denied sexual favours? Or did he do it soothe his bruised ego?

His actions were wrong, but the context is important here. It puts Nawazuddin’s actions in a specific category – either of a sexual predator or a toxic male Bollywood star drunk on power. There is a difference and whether we like it or not, we need to acknowledge it.

For most of us who have been following #MeToo stories closely, this is our Aziz Ansari moment. It has divided opinion, drawn battle lines and started verbal duels on social media. It lies in that realm of nebulous incidences; whose perception differs from person to person. But as Sait said, people need to recognise the toxic difference before picking sides. Should we categorise what seems as a consensual relationship gone sour as a #MeToo allegation? Let us know what you think.

Picture Credit : Hindustan Times

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own

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