Is Zaira Wasim’s case a key to open the stage for gender bias ? Are women given a blanket protection in cases of assault ?

Zaira went live on Instagram after the flight and narrated the excruciating experience

The “Dangal fame” actress Zaira Wasim was teary eyed from an incident that took place on 9th December during her flight from Delhi to Mumbai via Air Vistara Airlines.

The 17-year-old actress in an Instagram post, alleged that a middle-aged passenger sitting behind her brushed his feet repeatedly against the actress’ back and neck while she was half asleep. She tried to record the whole incident but wasn’t successful because of the dim lights in the flight. However, she captured few pictures of the man’s actions.

After her flight landed, she started her Instagram live feed to narrate her excruciating experience. She was seen visibly disconcerted in the self shot video expressing her shock towards the whole incident. “I just landed, the whole irony of this that I yelled… and this is not done… this is not how you should be treated or made to feel. This is terrible…This is how they will take care of girls? No one will help us if we don’t decide to help ourselves and that is the worst thing,” she said, looking irked.

The National Award winning Kashmiri actress expressed her disgrace for inactions of the cabin crew. “Slow claps for Vistara’s crew guys! Wonderful!” she wrote. To which the Airlines responded by a tweet apologizing for the unfortunate experience she had to go through and said that they are carrying out “detailed investigation” and will support Zaira in every way required. Ensuring the safety and security for their passengers is of paramount importance to them and so they hold zero tolerance for such behaviour.

The National Commission of Women (NCW) has taken cognizance of reports of this incident and the Commission will be calling the airlines to get details of what transpired and the action taken by them in the given matter.

The accused was identified as 39-year-old Vikas Sachdeva, a senior executive at an entertainment firm in Mumbai, according to a report by Times of India.

The action was taken after Mumbai Police registered an FIR against Sachdeva under section 354 IPC (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) & POCSO Act in the matter.

This whole mid-air incident drew strong reactions from women’s rights activists, politicians and the cinema industry.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reacted to the incident, saying she was disturbed looking at the whole incident. “Any harassment or crime against women should be dealt with, swiftly and effectively. As a mother of two daughters, I am appalled at what happened with Zaira,” Mufti tweeted and urged the authorities to take strict action.

Bollywood extended their support and condemned the alleged molestation of the actress. When asked about the incident, Bhumi Pednekar said she was dumbfounded to know about the alleged molestation. Actor Kareena Kapoor Khan said women are far superior than men and are fighters in their lives and can fight their own battles fiercely. Noted actor Madhuri Dixit showed her concern saying, “This should never happen, neither in India nor in any other part of the world.”

When contacted, Sachdeva’s wife Divya Sachdeva, too responded to the allegations levied on her husband, she came out in defence of her husband saying that they respect women as much as anyone can do and her husband is innocent and blameless as he did not have the intention to molest the actress.

“We as a family are completely shattered. My father is an ex-army officer and my husband is an income tax officer’s son. We respect women. She (Zaira) is making an allegation for publicity to get the limelight. He had gone for the condolence prayer of his real mama. He was in trauma and shock. He was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. Every time women needn’t be right. Men can be innocent too,” said Divya, according to a News18 report.

Sachdeva also told the police that his foot touched the actor by mistake and that he apologised to her after she raised an alarm. Adding to this, a co-passenger in the business class, who was on the same flight said that Sachdeva is innocent and there was no misbehaving evident to him. “I saw Sachdeva doze off immediately after he settled in his seat after boarding the flight at Delhi. His fault was he kept his legs on the armrest, which was wrong. I did not see him misbehaving. He also apologized when the actor shouted at him when the flight landed at Mumbai airport and the matter was settled then,” he quoted.

The accused was arrested on 10th December, Sunday by Mumbai’s Sahar police for the allegations. In a December 11 hearing, the court had sent the accused to police custody till December 13.

The recent developments of the case reveal that the Mumbai court has sent the accused to judicial custody till 22 December. According to the reports, Vikas Sachdev was produced before the Dindoshi court in suburban Malad after his two-day police custody ended. The police sought his further custody, saying that the statements of passengers and the victim were yet to be recorded. However, Sachdev’s lawyer Harvinder Singh Anand opposed extension of his client’s police custody saying he cooperated with the police in the investigation and that there was no evidence that he tried to hamper the probe. It was also contended that this allegations are a result of afterthoughts, as the actress, during the flight, never complained about the alleged incident to the crew or filed any complaint upon landing at the airport. After hearing the arguments, the court sent the accused to judicial custody till 22 December.

The case is getting complicated with the revelation of every intricate detail and fact. As of now, it is difficult to form opinions or favour sides. Also, releasing memes or criticizing either side is not a sound decision. There is a knack in us to metamorphose every issue and criticism involving two different genders into a movement of gender bias-ness. But once we widen the lens of feminism, who knows where to stop? When such issues undergo the realms of sexuality and sexual expression, the situation becomes even worse.

So, the best advice would be to maintain peace and avoid getting into any social media wars and hypes. Having faith in our law and judicial system is what should be done. We are no legal experts to declare the verdict or presume any fact to be true until proven by the law. Any make-belief evidence does not hold validity or should not be entertained until the facts are unearthed in a legit sense.

So let’s be realistic and not jump to any conclusions. Let’s not make it a fight between two genders and reserve our judgments until the situation demands.

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About Shreya Malhotra 5 Articles
A vibrant Punjabi brought up in Gujarat. She is a law student but words are blood to her veins. She holds their string and wrings them to her thoughts. She writes for two purposes: to give illusionary thoughts a twist of reality with her words and to create social awareness regardless of the quantum of people she reaches. She believes in breaking the stereotyped boxes and creating her own journey which makes her quirky.