Midair molestation: Identity management comes unstuck

Wayward-footed held after social media posts
Report by: 
Anjali Mathew
19 Dec 2017

All and sundry know who the teenage actor was. In fact, for  several hours after the story broke, her name was common currency on news websites and TV channels hungry for content on a lazy Sunday. Only in the afternoon did better sense prevail and her name and her moving images were removed to be replaced by “teenage Bollywood actor molested.”
The news was that the actor was molested midair in a flight to Mumbai by a passenger sitting right behind her. His foot did all the molesting. He acted as if he was asleep while his foot moved of its own accord. Reports said the actor screamed and by the time the plane landed, she was in tears.
Her molester-tormenter with the wayward foot has been arrested and will be presented in court along with the offending foot. His name is Vikas Sachdeva, 39, a senior executive with a Mumbai-based entertainment company and a frequent flyer.
Sachdeva told police he was tired at boarding time itself and had left instructions with the flight crew that he should not be disturbed even for refreshments, that he was going to be asleep the moment after he hit the seat.
Talking about the teenage actor, if it was at sea level or ground level, she could have grappled the molester to the mat and pinned him with a Nelson hold. She had acted in a wrestling movie. But this was midair and the lights were dimmed for the plane to land. 
Reports said the teenage actor was in the business class with her mother on the Saturday-night flight from Delhi to Mumbai. The molester was a frequent flyer.
Sachdeva was seated right behind the actor. He allegedly put his foot on the armrest of her window seat and stroked her neck and back. After the actor posted her ordeal on social media, the police tracked down the accused on Sunday evening. He was arrested and was to be produced in court on Monday. The police believe the harassment was a deliberate act. The accused claimed that he was tired and could have accidentally touched the girl. "She warned him not to touch her, but he persisted," a police officer said.
The actor in an Instagram post alleged the flight crew did not take any action against the passenger even after she raised an alarm. Social media hit out at the airline and the authorities concerned for apathy. The National Commission for Women and the Maharashtra State Commission for Women have taken up the case with civil aviation authorities, questioning the airline and police role.
The police have booked the alleged perpetrator under the IPC and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act. The airline has offered full cooperation. The DGCA said it will “examine” if the airline standard protocol. Reports said the actor “screamed” when the plane was landing and the cabin crew was in their jump seats, belted down.
The plane landed around midnight. The man in 2F seat got off and went his way. The actor and her mother collected their baggage and quit the airport premises. The airline said the actor’s mother declined to register a complaint. It took the police two hours to convince the actor on Sunday morning to convince her to lodge an FIR.
On January 4 this year, a middle-aged man was arrested after an Air India airhostess complained that he had misbehaved with her on a flight from Muscat to Delhi. She alleged he “touched her inappropriately” and used “lewd language’. In that instance, the flight’s commander used the on-board communication system to inform the airline about the incident. He also informed the security personnel on ground so that the man could be arrested at the arrival gate itself. And as expected the man was arrested and handed over to the police.
In the actor’s case Vistara airline has left room for doubt that its flight crew failed to act, even deliberately. But it should be accepted that when the actor screamed, the flight was already on landing mode and the flight crew belted down on jump seats. It was beyond comprehension to expect them to act beyond the call of duty and jump to the rescue of a damsel in distress unless it was a life and death matter, which it was not. (IPA)