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Case filed as Zaira Wasim alleges molestation, suspect's wife says case a 'misunderstanding'

Chief minister Mufti demands strict action in the wake of alleged incident during flight

Image Credit: Supplied
Zaira Wasim in 'Secret Superstar'
Gulf News

Mumbai: The wife of a Mumbai-based businessman arrested for allegedly molesting Bollywood actress Zaira Wasim said her husband had "no intention to molest" the teen and the incident was the result of a "misunderstanding".

“My husband is innocent, he had no intention to molest. There was a young death in family, which is where he went. He hadn’t slept for 24 hours. He asked the crew not to disturb him. His foot was on the arm rest but not with the intention to harass,” the woman wass quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The man, identified in reports as Vikas Sachdeva, will be produced in a magistrate court on Monday.

Dangal actress Wasim, 17, has alleged she was molested mid-air by the middle-aged man, drawing strong reactions by women rights activists and politicians. The airline apologised and Mumbai Police registered an First Information Report.

The National Award-winning Kashmiri actress complained about her ordeal, claiming that a middle-aged man seated behind her moved his foot up and down her neck and back.

In a self-shot video for Instagram live chat, Zaira is also seen breaking down.

“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 visibly shaken.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said she was appalled.

“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.

Police have registered a case against Sachdeva for assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, a Mumbai police control room official said.

The Civil Aviation Ministry has sought a report on the incident while the National Commission for Women (NCW) as well as the Delhi and Maharashtra commissions for women urged the actress to approach police.

NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma, Swati Maliwal of the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) and Maharashtra State Commission for Women (MSCW) Chairperson Vijaya Rahatkar, issued notices to authorities concerned to take due action.

Detailed investigation

DCW has already sought answers from Vistara Airlines seeking details of the action taken by airlines.

Vistara Airlines apologised to Zaira and said it was carrying out a detailed investigation.

“We will support Wasim in every way required and also if she decides to report this matter to the police ... We apologise for what Wasim experienced and we have zero tolerance for such behaviour,” read a post on the Airlines’ official Twitter page.

From the film industry, director Onir and actress Swara Bhasker came out in support of Zaira, who was also lauded for her performance in Secret Superstar.

“Shame Vistara that your staff did nothing. Shame on all the passengers, they are equally guilty as this moron. It should not be difficult for airlines to locate him from seat no. He should be arrested and punished,” Onir tweeted.

Swara called it an “intolerable” incident and said: “We are now at that point where a 17-year-old child has to remind us what is right and what is wrong. I’m so sorry that adults around you let you down, Zaira Wasim. But you keep up the good fight. Stay strong.”

Wrestler Babita Phogat tweeted a video in support of Zaira, who played the younger version of Geeta Phogat in Dangal.

“If someone is misbehaving with you, give a tight slap on their face. They will never dare to repeat their actions again. Zaira, you don’t need to be afraid of anyone and just be ‘dhaakad’ [bold] in real life as well.”

Expressing outrage

“Any harassment/crime against women should be dealt with swiftly and effectively. As a mother of two daughters, I am appalled at what happened with @zairawasimz. Hope the relevant authorities take strict action,”

Mehbooba Mufti, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister

“The passenger should be identified to the police by @airvistara and a case filed for legal action. None of this “he fell at my feet so I forgive him” rubbish!”

Omar Abdullah, Former J&K Chief Minister

“We are talking to our crew who were serving Wasim to understand the incident at greater length, and reaching out to fellow passengers as well. We apologise for what she experienced and we have zero tolerance for such behaviour”

Sanjiv Kapoor, Vistara chief strategy and commercial officer.