Teenaged Bollywood actor Zaira Wasim, on her way to Mumbai from Delhi on an Air Vistara flight, has alleged she was molested onboard by a passenger sitting behind her, who allegedly touched her inappropriately several times during the journey. The accused, Chandivli businessman Vikas Sachdev, 39, was detained from his house and later arrested.
Vikas, however, told the police that he had gone to Delhi for a funeral and was tired during the return journey, and whatever happened was unintentional.
Zaira Wasim put up a video on Instagram, narrating the ordeal. In tears while recounting what happened, she also alleged in the video that she even called out for help from the flight crew, but her pleas went unanswered. "This was not how one should be treated or made to feel… this is terrible," she said in the video, questioning the airline and its way of "taking care of girls".
She also uploaded a few images of the alleged incident with the caption "managed to get this" - one of the pictures is of a foot sticking out from behind her seat and placed on her armrest.
Describing the picture, she said the foot movement went on for nearly 10 minutes and the man kept nudging her shoulder and moving his foot up and down her back and neck. The dimming of the cabin lights made things worse, she added.
The video has created a huge buzz across social media platforms, with everyone - right from politicians and actors to sports personalities - speaking up in her support.
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that being a mother of two daughters, she could relate to her agony."Any harassment/crime against women shld be dealt with swiftly & effectively. As a mother of 2 daughters I am appalled at what happened…Hope the relevant authorities take strict action," Mufti tweeted.
The National Commission for Women has written to the Maharashtra DGP and the airline over the molestation allegation. It said it had taken cognisance of the incident and expected action in the matter.
When we contacted Vikas's friend Kuldeep Bhargava, he insisted that Vikas was innocent. "Vikas was upset and tired because of the death. He'd told the airhostess not to disturb him or even serve him the meal; he'd just asked for a blanket to sleep. When the flight was about to land, the actress shouted at him and said 'this is not your lounge; put your leg down'. He apologised to her and said it had happened inadvertently. He is innocent and doesn't have any past record either; the police can check," he said. Vikas's wife Divya too jumped in to speak in his support and placed the blame on Wasim.
"The actress is making false allegations against my husband. Ours is a love marriage; we have been together for the last 16 years. My husband is innocent," she said.
"His uncle died in Delhi, because of which he was in a state of shock and reached home late. The next morning we woke up to this actress shouting about molestation onboard. My husband told me that he had been sleeping when his leg accidentally touched her hand; he apologised to her for that.My husband respects women. "We always travel in business class but nothing like this has ever happened. Because of this incident, my entire family is disturbed. We want justice."