Indian police file sexual assault case against airline passenger for allegedly molesting Bollywood actress
MUMBAI: Indian police have filed a sexual assault case against an airline passenger after a 17-year-old Bollywood actress said the male passenger had molested her during a late New Delhi-Mumbai flight, police said on Monday.
Zaira Wasim was seen sobbing in a video she posted to her Instagram site after getting off a Vistara flight during which, she has alleged, the passenger sitting on the seat behind her attacked her.
“He kept nudging my shoulder and continued to move his foot up and down my back and neck,” Wasim said in the post. “Is this how we are going to take care of girls?”.
The video sparked outrage on social media, where fans came out in support of the actress, who shot to fame through her role as a child wrestler in the 2016 blockbuster Bollywood drama ‘Dangal’.
Police have registered a case against a man identified as Vikas Sachdeva, under Section 354 — 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.
“We are investigating fully and will support Zaira in every way required,” said Vistara chief strategy and commercial officer Sanjiv Kapoor.
“We have zero tolerance for this kind of thing.”
Neither Sachdeva or his lawyers could be reached for comment.
Local media reported his wife, Divya Sachdeva, saying her husband was innocent and that he was returning from a funeral and had been asleep on the flight. She accused Wasim of having made the allegations for publicity.
A spokeswoman for the airline said it had provided details to the police and aviation authorities and its senior management had flown to Mumbai to assist Wasim in the investigation. “We are deeply concerned and regret the unfortunate experience Ms. Zaira Wasim had onboard our flight last night.”
India’s National Commission for Women, a government-appointed body fighting for women’s rights, has asked the airline to explain why the crew did not step in to help the actress, according to local media reports.
“This is not done at all,” Wasim, who hails from the northern Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, was seen saying in the video while wiping off tears. “This is not…this is not how people should be made to feel.”
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted she was “appalled” by the incident and hoped authorities would take swift action.