Bengaluru model and makeup artist Hitesha Chandranee, who accused Kamaraj, a Zomato delivery man, of attacking her over an alleged delayed service, was booked by the police on Monday.
Hitesha has been charged with wrongful restraint, assault, intentional insult, and criminal intimidation based on a complaint by the delivery man. "An FIR was registered against Hitesha, the woman, who claimed to be attacked by a Zomato delivery man," a police officer confirmed to PTI.
According to the officer, Kamaraj claimed that Hitesha hit him with slippers, accused him of defaming her and hurled abuses at him on 9 March. Hitesha, in the meantime, deleted her video from Twitter that went viral, based on which the police had arrested Kamaraj on 10 March.
The model had said in her video that she lodged a complaint with the Zomato customer care asking them to either deliver food free of cost or cancel the order after it was delayed. "So guys, my Zomato order was late and I was talking to the customer care executive and meanwhile the delivery person just did this," said Hitesha, crying and showing her bleeding nose in a selfie video, which was aired by some TV channels.
Zomato had initially assured Hitesha that it would help her with the police investigation along with assistance for any medical care required. Later the company clarified it was also extending all possible support to Kamaraj.
"As per protocol, we have temporarily suspended Kamaraj from active deliveries, but are covering his earnings in the interim while there's an active police investigation," Zomato founder Deepinder Goyal said in a statement posted on Twitter. He has also said that his company was bearing the legal expenses of the case.
The incident, which had already left social media in a tizzy, has blown up again since Hitesha's arrest. As expected, there is a volley of conflicting opinions, with some celebrating Hitesha has got her just desserts for fabricating a lie, while the others expressing their reservations about the version of the events as narrated by a weeping Kamaraj.
Actor Tanushree Dutta, for one, went all out in an Instagram post expressing her doubt over the claims made by the latter. Apart from a point-by-point rebuttal of all the defenses of Kamaraj floating around on the internet, she ended her post by saying that Hitesha's arrest was all a ruse by Zomato's PR machinery to prevent the stocks of the company from falling, its shares crashing and angel investors backing out.
Her sharp views put a lid on the angle that the police action against Hitesha is vindication of the honest Kamaraj, who was framed by a cunning woman bent on cashing in on her social and class privileges.
To be fair, while the police investigation into the incident is still in progress, a kangaroo court on social media, led by men's rights activists among others, has already held Hitesha guilty. Not only that, she has been lampooned widely for her broken nose, compared with Surpanakha in the Ramayan, whose nose was chopped off by an angry Ram.
FIR filed against the woman for attacking #zomatodeliveryguy #Kamaraj.— Save Indian Family Foundation (@realsiff) March 15, 2021
Warning to women: Tide is turning. Gone are they days when you could get away by attacking men and then playing victim.#HiteshaChandranee will face the music now. pic.twitter.com/C409K9mTnv
Some users have also commented on the huge spike in Hitesha's followers on Instagram in the days following the incident, claiming that the bulk of these new followers had been bought over and are dud accounts.
Be that as it may and even if Hitesha is proved guilty of lying about the assault, there is no reason to underplay the endemic problem of violence against women in India. Most importantly, as Dutta wrote in her post, this incident cannot be turned into an excuse by men to commit actual crimes against women, hoping to get amnesty by citing the inequality of their social positions and making tearful pleas on social media.
One alleged lie by a woman should not be misused to negate the real sufferings of millions of others. Nor should it become an opportunity to open the floodgates of misogyny that has been institutionalised by centuries of patriarchy in India.