The internet has been taken by storm these past few days over allegations against Arunabh Kumar, Founder of The Viral Fever, India’s pioneer online channel for the new generation. Over years, TVF has become a case study for entrepreneurs, media aspirants and small-town dreamers, alike; Arunabh, the flag-bearer of hopes and dreams. But, lately there has been one increasingly murky blotch that might just be spreading like a stubborn stain over TVF.
A bunch of ex-employees have surfaced on the internet with claims about how Arunabh has sexually harassed them in the past, driving some of them to quit the organization. Without taking any side, we’d like to present a timeline of events that have taken place over the last few days…
A blog, titled The Indian Uber – That Is TVF, has surfaced with claims from someone, who calls herself the Indian Fowler, that Arunabh sexually harassed her and drove her to leave TVF.
© The Indian Fowler
© The Indian Fowler
© The Indian Fowler
You can read the entire blog post here.
Ever since this blog came to light, users—including prominent influencers and TVF front-runners—have taken to Twitter to share their thoughts and opinions about the whole issue.
Utter nonsense and false claims on an 'Anonymous' post. There has been no such person existing from muzaffarpur working at TVF.— Amit Golani (@GolOpinions) March 13, 2017
The sad part is facts are no longer relevant as long as people get their dose of schadenfreude. People will realise the truth but too late— Amit Golani (@GolOpinions) March 13, 2017
For a company that specially champions and has a woman centric channel @Girliyapa it's disheartening to see people question our culture— Amit Golani (@GolOpinions) March 13, 2017
Amit, why are there more than 9 women/young girls with this claim? How is everyone coming out to tell a concerted lie AT THE SAME TIME? https://t.co/mgWIzhWCBe— Aditi Mittal (@awryaditi) March 13, 2017
5 yrs at TVF & no memory of who this Female employee is. It's a baseless fictitious allegation. Haters pls don't stoop down to this level :(— Nidhi NEETU Bisht (@EkThapaTiger) March 13, 2017
Sickened by all the allegations coming to the fore. There's no place for such behaviour in 2017.— Ashish Shakya (@stupidusmaximus) March 13, 2017
I hope there's a fair and impartial investigation into it. It is literally the least you can do at this stage.— Ashish Shakya (@stupidusmaximus) March 13, 2017
Much to process after all that's been read today. I hope there's a fair investigation that's followed in the coming days to come.— Tanmay Bhat (@thetanmay) March 13, 2017
It is very hard for women to speak up against harassment at the work place and as entrepreneurs it is our duty to make them feel safe.— Tanmay Bhat (@thetanmay) March 13, 2017
Then, another source—Ayushi Aggarwal—spoke up, recounting her own experience with Arunabh at TVF. Here’s her account:
What followed was a slew of women—Rafiya Khan, Reema Sengupta and Reshma Patra—coming out with their own versions of harassment cases while at TVF.
At this point, TVF decided to make a statement on the allegations that were slowly coming to light:
The whole situation seems to be getting murkier by the minute; especially since we don’t really know what the actual truth is. While we cannot give our opinions based on the allegations of these women, what we need to seriously look into is the kind of work culture and how it has led to this kind of mudslinging. We need to talk about some serious workplace ethic in today’s day and age where we seem to have confused a progressive work culture with that of a joke at someone else’s expense. In the whole wake of trying to create an equal work environment for all genders, we’ve forgotten where to draw the line when it comes to humour and lightheartedness in the workplace. What is funny; what isn’t; what can’t be joked about and what is a touchy subject—we seem to have blurred all those lines because we’re trying so hard to preach a fun and casual work environment.
The question to ask here is how casual is casual and where should one draw the line. And yes, while we’ve decided to break all boundaries in the work space in some misconstrued goal for an equal and progressive space, there needs to be some seriously strict demarcation about certain issues; *** being at the front of it all.
Whether or not these women are right, or wrong; whether or Arunabh is the real culprit in this whole issue is a matter that may or may not come to light at a later stage. But, the whole situation also brings to the fore one very glaring workplace problem that more employees increasingly face—the sexual harassment clause. In some cases, there isn’t one, even. Many have blatantly slammed that TVF seems to have lacked one—a statement that is also being just as highly debated and discussed. But, we need to shed more light on the laws against sexual harassment in the workplace and how it needs to be foolproofed and safeguarded, at the same time. Above all, this really is a matter of the sad inability of TVF’s HR and Legal department to have handled the issues—if they had been brought to light by the said victims—the right way; something they failed to do. Probably if this had been nipped in the bud and taken care of, the situation would not have gotten so messy today and, if at all true, then Kumar would not have continued his actions in the workplace.
© The Coalition
Then, again, comes the question of whether or not TVF and Arunabh have handled the issue to the best of their efforts or not. The statement they put out earned them more criticism and jibes than they did any solace, honestly. The part where they intend to bring the culprit to “severe justice” has come under a lot of heat from people who have insinuated that TVF plans to take care of it their own way. Further to this fire is the fuel being added by Arunabh’s recent interview to Mumbai Mirror.
“I am a heterosexual, single man and when I find a woman sexy, I tell her she's sexy. I compliment women. Is that wrong?”
What every internet user sees in this is that Arunabh seems to be justifying his actions. While this might not entirely be true and maybe it’s just the wrong choice of words—let’s give Kumar the benefit of doubt till evidence is still being collected—the statement could not have been more ill-timed and lightly taken.
What the actual truth is remains to be seen. If at all these allegations are true, even to a slight percentage, it is appalling that in a modern environment, a company that prides itself on properties like Girliyapa—portraying women at the helm of modern revolution and gender equality—is getting away with such incidents.
Whatever be the case, we hope that the truth comes to light soon enough and justice is meted out correctly by the right authorities to and for the right parties.