#MeToo : Ranjon Ghoshal, Sudipto Chatterjee And Awakening Of Bengali Intellectualism
#MeToo : Ranjon Ghoshal, Sudipto Chatterjee And Awakening Of Bengali Intellectualism

On 17th October, Facebook was shaken by the allegations of sexual harassment directed towards Ranjon Ghoshal, one of the founding members of ‘Moheener Ghoraguli’. A woman named Hiya Mukherjee came out with her story where she methodically recounted how Ghoshal got close to her then underage self, through the medium of Facebook and then proceeded to proposition her for sex and also tried to engage in non-consensual sex talk.

The Bengali intelligentsia has for a long time congratulated themselves for being a witness to the rise of the band ‘Moheener Ghoraguli’. Touted as one of the earliest and foremost modern bands of India, ‘Moheen’ as they are commonly called, were the first to combine modern, rock music along with the lyrical poetry that held up the aspirations and ambitions of the then-Bengali youth but did it so musically. Since then, their songs have been an undeniable aspect of Bengali culture with the band being invited to perform even now at some of the premier institutes of Kolkata. It is not uncommon for the youth to quote songs from the band or sing it out loud – a testament to the fact that their cultural impact and influence has not diminished even a bit.

Image Source: Wikipedia
Image result for ranjon ghoshal
Picture Credits: Times of India

Within this social media uproar, on 19th October, Debolina Mukherjee also spoke out about the time when she was preyed upon by Ghoshal at a young age almost 15 years ago.

Within this social media uproar, on 19th October, Debolina Mukherjee also spoke out about the time when she was preyed upon by Ghoshal at a young age almost 15 years ago. She had also gone to court but the court had dismissed it which gave Ghoshal a convenient avenue to also dismiss Mukherjee’s case as “false” and to be born out of vengeance as he had not given her a job opportunity she wanted.

(Screenshot of the post against Ghoshal from Facebook)

On 20th October, Ghoshal’s own daughter-in-law, Rhea Rodrigues Mukherjee spoke about how she had known Ghoshal since her childhood as their families were close friends. She admits to being warned by aunts and mothers that Ghoshal was the “toucher” – the creepy, old uncle we all see and come into contact with at family events. She was also inappropriately touched by Ghoshal quite a few times before she told her husband of this and he spoke to Ghoshal.

On 21st October, Indrayudh Ghoshal, Ranjon’s son, also gave a public statement on Facebook on how he continues to believe the women who came out against his father and will continue to support them until proven otherwise in a strong stance of solidarity. Coinciding with this, another student, Susmita Pramanick, also came out with her story on 21st October where she also spoke about how Ghoshal used her young age and his reputation to solicit for more pictures from her, usually of a sexual nature.

(Screenshot of the post against Ghoshal from Facebook)

The narrative through all these three stories, and maybe countless more, is that Ghoshal is a sexual predator and targets young women specifically, using his fame and reputation.

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The narrative through all these three stories, and maybe countless more, is that Ghoshal is a sexual predator and targets young women specifically, using his fame and reputation.

Both Susmita and Hiya talk about how they were initially “ecstatic” at getting a friend request from someone like Ranjon Ghoshal when they were 16 or so. The attention that they received from someone like Ghoshal was quite unusual but they did not notice it as such back then. Rather he would tell them how he wanted to speak to them in order to be aware of what the youth are thinking and feeling. With intellectual conversations on politics, sexuality and such, Ranjon Ghoshal suddenly made highly sexual statements about his own arousal without any reason to do so, according to Hiya Mukherjee. Then he started to engage in further sex talk with Hiya’s consent and told her he wanted to have sex with her. Hiya claims to have been dumbfounded and hurt, to see the man she respected as an elder to suddenly turn into a predator was terrifying.

Susmita’s post also consisted of screenshots from her chat with Ranjon Ghoshal back in 2016 where he quite clearly commands her to send him a selfie of hers, and not just any selfie but a full-length one. When countered that selfies cannot be full-length, Ghoshal seems to be quite the expert as he teaches her how to use a long mirror and then take a picture. When she did not comply but instead sent a picture of her wearing a saree, Ghoshal retorted back with the demand of seeing her belly button, “if the belly button cannot be seen, that means it’s bad” – was his justification.

Debolina Mukherjee had also known Ghoshal since she was 10 years old. “On a certain occasion, I was asked by one of his staff members to meet him. I went and realised that there was no one present in the office barring him. I was asked to sit beside him on the sofa and then he started touching me. As I cringed, he held me from behind and started rubbing his bearded face on my shoulder,” she reported to Times of India. Although her father, well-known Bengali writer Shirshendu Mukherjee, had advised her to forgive and move on, Debolina had taken the court to the case – only to lose.

Also read: What #MeToo Tells Us About Himpathy And Why Overcoming It Matters

On 20th October, Ranjon Ghoshal extended his apology onto the public sphere through a Facebook post. He claimed he was sorry to have breached the “personal space” and behaved inappropriately with a lot of women and was asking for apologies. He also retracted his earlier statement of Mukherjee being vengeful against him as he claimed it was done in a moment of reactionary weakness.

(Screenshot taken from Facebook)

This year, around April, social media witnessed a startling number of female students who came out against the powerful men in their colleges who were also politically aligned with strong organizations. The fact that these women spoke up from and about institutes like Presidency and Jadavpur University was taken as a sign that maybe finally, the toxic culture that pervades these privileged spaces and thrives under their intellectual guise will finally be corrected.

In October, a different kind of #MeToo happened with women calling out the elder, powerful men who had preyed on them – whether it is a professor or a man who holds immense cultural power in Kolkata.

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Picture credits: NDTV

On 16th October, Angela Mondal spoke about how a professor of her college and renowned Bengali theatre personality Sudipto Chatterjee had raped her under the justification of teaching her a “breathing technique” that she would use while acting in her play. This allowed other women from the theatre circle like Srabasti Ghosh and Rajeswari Paul to also talk about how they were inappropriately touched and later, forced to not look at it as sexual assault because it was all a part of teaching theatre techniques quite physically. While Chatterjee did hand in his resignation at the college where he was teaching, he also denied all accusations against him as he claimed that there was no sexual exchange but it was a simple physical technique used all around the world that was misinterpreted.

(Screenshot of the post made against Sudipto from Facebook)

Also read: “It’s Complicated”: Reflections On The Changing Ideals Of Romance Post #MeToo

To manipulate consent or bypass the presence of it by targeting young girls or to rape or assault women by using the convenient excuse of “teaching” certain theatre techniques and then to get away with it using cultural clout is shameful. A discourse on sexual harassment and consent was lacking for the longest time within the entire mass – one can only hope that the victims get the justice they deserve and the toxic culture that prevails in theatre as well as music can be removed even if a little.

Featured Image Source: The Week

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