Cover Image Credit: Simlyn J/Feminism In India
Trigger warning: Abuse, rape, sexual violence.
This article has graphic depictions and mentions of sexual and emotional violence, abuse, and harassment. Readers are advised to proceed with caution.
On 3 May, Mumbai based journalist and poet Meghna Prakash came out with her testimony on Instagram where she explained her abusive relationship with Tanay Kasera, guitarist of the now-dissolved band Circle of Fifths which began in 2014 during which he physically, emotionally, and sexually abused her. She stated that during the relationship, Kasera stabbed her thigh, broke her spine, and raped her on multiple occasions. “The cops and the indie music scene of Navi Mumbai did nothing to help my case and brushed off the violence as an internal matter.” recounted Meghna in her public statement on Instagram.
TIMD has copies of Meghna’s medical reports which verify her claims.
Meghna came out with the statement after Kasera allegedly threatened her and her family and said he’ll attack Meghna with acid. Even in the years after they split up, Meghna said that tactics of intimidation and harassment by Kasera towards Meghna and her family were very common.
Screenshots and testimonies of women reveal that Kasera abused, stalked, harassed, and raped several women in the last few years. Some of the cases even go back to 2013. One woman recalled how Kasera landed up at her apartment just after they had connected on social media. In 2018, singer-songwriter Abhilasha Sinha called him out on Facebook after he tried to send her a friend request. Queendom’s vocalist Damini called him out this year on social media warning others of his predatory behaviour. Comment exchanges on Abhilasha Singh’s Facebook post reveal that Kasera’s bandmates of Circle of the Fifths were fully aware of Kasera’s crimes but chose to remain silent and ‘keep the band out of it’.
A Mumbai based musician recalled her meeting with Kasera, “I met him during one of the jamming sessions I was having with other musicians. Soon, I noticed his (Tanay’s) behaviour turning creepy after he started asking really personal questions like ‘Are you dating someone?’, ‘Are you a virgin?’ He would then pressure me into hanging out with him and going on night drives while I wanted to keep things professional.
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I started dating Tanay when I was 16-years-old. During the span of 2 years, he assaulted me so much, he broke my spine, my nose, my toe, stabbed me in the thigh, cut up my vagina, threw me in a ditch, brutally raped me and few of my friends were sexually assaulted as well. I was powerless against him. The cops and the indie music scene of navi mumbai did nothing to help my case. They brushed off the violence as an internal matter. Recently, he threatened my family and said he will throw acid at me. I was terrified. Today, he called me and I abused him in anger, maybe he will use this against me, but I don’t care. I had a career in dance he robbed me off. He brutalised me in ways I’m too terrified to speak out loud. For years I struggled as a minor for justice. Today, a friend reached out to me saying Tanay is back and she’s outing him because he has persistently harassed her on social media and sent her lewd messages and tried videocalling her despite her continuously turning him down. Tanay Kasera is a monster, an abuser and a rapist. I am disgusted by those who continue to support him. I am in therapy with severe PTSD symptoms dealing with what he did to me. Please warn as many women as possible. And musicians, you can do better than to collaborate and work with an asshole like this who can brutalise women, shamelessly call them still and come back like nothing ever happened. • • The screenshots are from my friend’s post on Facebook who called him out.
Further, screenshots were put out alleging that Kasera doesn’t understand the word ‘No’. Screenshots from January and February of this year show Alisha*(name changed to protect her identity) beg Kasera to stop reaching out to her as she never wishes to speak with him again but he continues with his ramblings of ‘Please talk to me’ Alisha also stated that a few weeks prior to that, Kasera had shown up at her doorstep without any invitation. Alisha* hadn’t told him about where she lives. “My roommates hid me and told him I am not in town. He finally stopped after I begged him to not reach out to me.” She stated that Kasera had earlier kissed her without her consent.
Meghna filed an FIR with the Kharghar Police Station, Navi Mumbai in 2014 but years later, when she decided to follow up on the incident but found out that there was no FIR registered in her name. Meghna is currently seeking help from the National Commission of Women and an NGO and plans to file another FIR in Mumbai once it’s safer to travel.
The outcry over Tanay Kasera’s actions isn’t old news. In 2018, Rolling Stone India and Times Now reported on the incident after Abhilasha Sinha called him out on Facebook. Till today, Kasera hasn’t been charged by the police or faced any actions for his crimes towards multiple women.
We tried reaching out to Tanay Kasera for a comment, this report will be updated once he responds.
Days later, Uvika Wahi came out with her testimony on two music producers in the industry, Hashback Hashish, and Soulspace. Hashback Hashish (Ashish Sachan) physically abused her while they were in a relationship in 2011 and Soulspace (Vishnu PS) physically and emotionally abused her and her friends in 2015.
Following the post on Facebook, a woman came out to Uvika with her experience of allegedly being raped by Sachan in 2016. She recalled that ‘he just nodded and walked away’ when she confronted him about it.
Multiple women came out with experiences of them, or their friends being physically harassed by Vishnu PS and threatened with dire consequences. In one case, Vishnu allegedly threatened to leak nudes of the survivor if she told anyone about the abuse. Another survivor described how he physically abused her and used broken glass to hurt her which landed her at the hospital.
Following the post, Jai Dev Gupta, co-founder of Be:Ent released a statement that Sachan and Vishnu were blacklisted from working with Be:Ent. REProduct Artists announced via a statement on Facebook that they’d be formally ceasing professionally engaging with Sachan in light of the allegations.
Uvika has been contemplating legal action. “Since I am not in India anymore, it complicates the situation considerably. I am still consulting with a lawyer in India on how to start legal proceedings remotely.”
Filmmaker Surabhi Tandon put out a statement soon after the allegations surfaced. Tandon directed the music video of Sachan’s song ‘Danse’ which focuses on the tale of a woman navigating the city with the male gaze surrounding her. “As far as the team that worked on the video is concerned, none of us had enough information before making the decision to work with him. In retrospect and in personal capacity, I am obviously faced with difficult questions now about what we thought Ashish was, and who he turned out to be. (sic)”. Suryakant Sawhney aka Lifafa too had put out a statement regarding his relationship with Sachan. Sachan features in one of the tracks on his critically acclaimed debut album ‘Jaago’ and he had been playing gigs with Sachan as late as 29th February this year. The statement is now unavailable.
Soon after the allegations surfaced, all of Hashback Hashish’s social media went off the radar. We tried reaching out to Sachan and Vishnu for comments but failed to get a response, this report will be updated once they respond.
Speaking to other folks from the circuit, many claimed to be harassed and catcalled at gigs and parties however they chose not to identify the perpetrators. Shivangi Vyasulu, founder of The Music Cocoon in Bangalore who’s been a part of the scene for nearly a decade says, “The whole talk on harassment and abuse in the circuit is a can of worms. There have been so many instances where men have groped me and said it was an ‘accident’ and to not make it a big deal. I have always retaliated with a punch or a slap to their faces but I know not everyone would want to do that. An artist manager and promoter passed creepy comments once, I was uncomfortable but I gave it back to him. There is a whole culture of silencing abuse and gaslighting survivors at play here.” Shivangi also recalled times when musicians have been drunk and inebriated on stage and passed lewd comments on the women around them.
“This one time my friend was asked by an organiser to wear something more revealing during her performance. This is the kind of shit female musicians have to put up with every day.” adds Shivani.
Sanjeeta Bhattacharya, a Delhi based singer, and songwriter recalls her experience. “I was just starting out in the industry when it happened. A senior musician whom I looked up to was dropping me home after a gig, he pulled me closer and put my head on his chest while stroking my back. He kissed my cheek after that. He sent me a text saying “I didn’t want to let go of you” after that. It was a really uncomfortable experience. I had a respectable image of him prior to this, and to have that crushed left me feeling ashamed and devastated. Years have passed since this incident but I don’t hold it against me anymore. What he did was wrong, but I hope that he has changed his ways after all this time.”
Anupriya Kukreja, a DJ from Delhi recalls her family’s hesitation when she first started out in music “When I told my mother that I wanted to be a DJ, she refused because she thought I’ll get molested. I told her I’ll get molested even if I don’t become a DJ. But we’re in denial about misogyny in the circuit. The industry has a way of silencing misogyny and calling it invalid. I find it quite weird.”
“At the start of my career, men thought I was hitting on them when I’d ask them for support. It made me feel really uncomfortable and sexualised. Many of them doubted my capabilities when I got gigs. I was lucky to find solidarity within a group of female DJs which helped me learn and grow. I hope we start teaching more young girls to be vocal and speak up.” says Anupriya.
While working on this article, we tried reaching out to several other musicians from across India to bring out their voices. However, many declined fearing repercussions in the industry or being ousted in social circles.
Writers note: This article does not mean to defame the ones accused of sexual harassment as we have just stated the information which is already publicly available. We bring this article to you to talk about an issue the industry has stayed silent for too long. If you know a survivor of harassment, reach out to them and be kind. If you are a survivor, remember that you’re not alone in this.