A 39-year-old man, identified as Vikas Sachdev, a senior executive of a media and entertainment company, has been arrested and charged for allegedly molesting Dangal actress Zaira Wasim on a Delhi-Mumbai flight on Saturday.
Mumbai Mirror quoted police sources as saying that he often travelled on the route.
Sachdev has been booked under section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of IPC, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) since Wasim is 17 years old, a report in the Economic Times said.
Wasim has accused Sachdev, who sat behind her on Air Vistara’s flight to Mumbai, of keeping his feet on her armrest and running it over her back, neck and shoulders as she struggled to document the violation and draw the attention of the crew.
“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,” Wasim wrote on an Instagram live story. She posted a photo of a man’s foot and said, because the cabin lights were dimmed she could not get a better photo as evidence of the trauma she suffered.
She is seen crying in the video and saying “It’s not done at all.”
In a statement, Air Vistara said it was investigating the incident.
Sources in the airline told ANI that Wasim “had not brought the incident to notice of the crew till the flight commenced descent. After landing the crew inquired about the incident and asked Zaira and her mother if they want to file a complaint but they denied.” However, Tuhin Mishra, Wasim’s manager, told news channels that they had in fact approached cabin crew, “but they didn’t act”.
Condemning the incident as “shameful”, Maharashtra State Commission for Women’s chairperson, Vijaya Rahatkar, said MSCW will direct DGCA to conduct an inquiry in the matter. Several political parties have reacted to the incident.
Wasim won a National Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing a young Geeta Phogat in the film Dangal.
As more and more women step out of their homes to explore a wider degree of independence, sexual crimes against them have also steadily risen, enabled by a societal culture rooted in patriarchy and male insecurity. A poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that Delhi is still the “rape capital” of India with a steady rise in sexual violence – 2,155 rapes were recorded in Delhi in 2016 – a rise of 67 per cent from 2012.