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“Zaira Wasim molested on a flight”, came the news on social media. The Dangal actor was allegedly molested, and further trolled when she spoke up about it.
My cellphone flashed a new notification on the screen, ‘Zaira Waseem, Dangal actress molested’. The news was tough to ignore. Was it an unruly fan or did the crowd get out of control at one of her events? My curiosity got the better of me and I clicked to read how she got into the said imbroglio.
The article reported that Zaira Wasim was allegedly molested on a Delhi to Mumbai Vistara flight, last Saturday, by a passenger seated right behind her. The 17-year-old, in an Instagram post, said the man was rubbing his foot against her back and neck while she was half asleep. The actor posted a video on Instagram around midnight. She narrated the episode onboard the Air Vistara flight, tears rolling down her cheeks. My curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on the attached video.
“So, I just landed and you know the whole irony of this is that the guy… this is not done at all. This is not the way, this is not how a girl should be made to feel because this is terrible. Is this how they are going to take care of girls? No one will help us if we don’t decide to help ourselves. This is the worst thing,” I heard my favourite young artist sob.
There was also a video clip of Zaira sitting near the window seat and a denim clad leg rested on her armrest, in the space between the aircraft wall and her seat. I heard Zaira speak, “Managed to get this (shot of the molester’s foot). The lights were dimmed so it was even worse. It continued for another 5-10 minutes and then I was sure of it. He kept nudging my shoulder and continued to move his foot up and down my back and neck,” she posted.
The video reminded me of another incident on an Indigo flight sometime ago. A woman had filmed a man touching her inappropriately. A youtube video of a middle aged paunchy man apologising while hiding his face conjured up in my mind. The co-passengers were silent spectators while the woman lashed out at him, threatening to report to security.
Incidents of men touching women travellers and denying it on being confronted are nothing new. Having gone through that stage myself and now being mother of young girls, this unwelcome covert caressing is a bane we have learnt to watch against.
Paradox is that in Secret Superstar Zaira was a headstrong schoolgirl travelling alone from Wadodra to Mumbai on a flight. She confronted a man who had occupied her window seat. The characters she has played skew our impression of her so much, that we forget she is still a tender seventeen year old, trying to face a chaotic adult world around her. In real life men don’t just occupy seats, they letch and do not leave a woman traveller alone.
She has yet to accept that the Indian air traveller could also be a suave, educated, middle aged man, looking harmless on the exterior, whose inner demons will be unleashed if a young girl sits beside him. The libido would stir up to touch and feel an unknown woman, the moment lights are dimmed and the watchful eyes look away. He wouldn’t hesitate to slither like snake over skin when she sleeps unaware.
Initially Zaira blamed the sly violation of her body on an accident due to turbulence. Only when the objectionable touch did not stop and became increasingly decisive, she understood it was deliberate. She knew the man would deny it on her complaint, so tried to record a video of his foot stroking her neck and back.
“I tried to record it on my phone to understand it better. But because the cabin lights were dimmed, I failed to get it. I ignored it the first time, blamed the turbulence for it. Until I woke up to this pleasant sight of his beautiful foot rubbing my back and neck… Guess he couldn’t sit like a civilised human being and placed his foot on my arm rest while he’s fully ‘pheloaed’ his body on his seat (sic)” she disclosed in her video.
She reported it to the cabin crew and they dilly-dallied taking action. The flight landed and the man was soon lost in the crowd. A frustrated Zaira took to Instagram to vent out her helpless angst. It troubled the teen that women were not safe, co-passenger or cabin staff did not help.
Post her video becoming viral and, Air Vistara issued a statement that it is carrying out a detailed investigation.
“It appears crew only became aware of something amiss during final descent when they were seated for landing. Further details will come from the investigation which is currently ongoing in full force. we apologised for what Ms Wasim faced and we have zero tolerance for such behaviour.”
I want to ask Air Vistara that they have the details of all passengers and their seat details. Is it really so tough to find who sat behind Zaira?
Zaira Wasim also criticised the airline for inaction. “Slow claps for Vistara’s crew guys! Wonderful!” she wrote on Instagram.
In the online community, those who accept that men do go to shocking extent to touch or feel young women in public, show their support to Zaira. The National Commission of Women has claimed that it is sending a notice to the airline for not getting the accused arrested.
There are however many who trolled her, calling it a publicity stunt and asking her questions like why did she not report to the crew, change her seat, confront the man, why did she post it after the flight? Can’t these guys see this man’s foot in the video? Why is the onus of proving a sexual advance lie on the victim?
I am appalled, I have gone through that age and now have young daughters. The silent assault is often well timed and shocking for the victim. Ridden with panic and shame they are seldom able to accuse so blatantly. The touchy-feely guys do strike in a surreptitious manner. The man waited for her to fall asleep to touch her. She attempted to film it in the dimmed lights. Considerable flight time was over by the time the incident happened. She trusted the crew to take action and they wasted time. But we don’t care because as one of the Twitterati aptly wrote:
Who are we?
What do we want?
How do we get it?
By blaming and shaming the victim.
Update by the editors: Air Vistara have since come out with an apology, and police action is being taken.
Image source: Instagram video
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Doctorate on teenage pregnancy, published research papers with Medical journals. Articles for Reader's Digest
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