Former Miss India and actor Niharika Singh has written an eloquent piece about her #MeToo experience and mentioned ex-boyfriend and actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The post was shared by journalist Sandhya Menon in a series of tweets.
Setting the context, Niharika writes, "I decided to write this piece to expand my own understanding of what constitutes abuse, who we choose to punish and whom we are willing to forgive. Like the majority of Indian women, especially those from marginalised backgrounds, my entire life has been dotted with various forms of exploitation. Sexual, physical, emotional, verbal, economic - I've been through it all."
In the post, the actor talks of her experiences, first as a daughter, then as a model and beauty queen, and later as a struggling actor trying to make a mark. The abuse - whether it was T-Series head Bhushan Kumar who reportedly texted her saying he would love to know her more, the coercion she experienced at the hands ex-boyfriend Nawazuddin Siddiqui, or the physical violence she suffered at the hands of former fiance Mayank Singhvi - eventually added up to a "broken spirit" that needed healing.
"Each time I've tried to extricate myself from one abusive situation, I found myself caught in the vortex of another. I've had to discover myriad ways to disengage, break patterns, forgive, heal and reclaim my strength in order to survive, grow and find peace."
Talking about actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, she writes, “One morning, when I was home and he had been shooting all night, Nowaz sent me a text saying he was near my building. I invited him over and asked him to come and have breakfast with me. When I opened the door, he grabbed me. I tried to push him away but he wouldn’t let go. After a little coercion, I finally gave in. I wasn’t sure what to make of this relationship. He told me it was his dream to have a Miss India or an actress wife, just like Paresh Rawal and Manoj Bajpayee. I found his little consession funny but endearing.”
Niharika says she ended the relationship after discovering that he had been two-timing her and other women, and was, in fact, married. Years later, he tried to persuade her into renewing their relationship but she refused. A year back, Nawazuddin Siddiqui had to retract the story of his affair with Niharika in his autobiography, An Ordinary Life. His claims were also dismissed by senior theatre and TV actor Sunita Rajawar.
The post also talks about violence against women, especially Dalit women, and the role of power in the context of abuse:
"Power is an everyday, socialised and embodied phenomenon."
She also calls out women who have sided with and enabled "predators":
"Patriarchy has no gender. Nor does abuse. We can’t forget the role of mothers and wives who are equally responsible in covering or enabling their sons’ and husbands’ crimes. Women in power like Nandita Das and Kavita Krishnan have all shown professional and political allegiance with predators and enabled them through their silence or solidarity. Lending their voices to ‘survivors’ of the #Metoo movement now only comes across as fraudulent."
The actor, best known for her role in Miss Lovely, which competed at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section, also writes about an incident involving film-maker Sajid Khan where he reportedly predicted that a restaurant being opened by a female friend of theirs would shut down in a year.
Niharika recounts: "To his actress girlfriend he said, ‘She won’t survive a day without me in Bollywood’. ‘And, this one’, looking at me straight, ‘will soon commit suicide.’ My restaurateur friend is opening her fourth restaurant. It is difficult to get a table at the other three. The actress’ career skyrocketed after she dumped the filmmaker and I, have managed to stay alive."