Actress and former VJ Shenaz Treasurywala has written an open letter addressed to the men she considers "most powerful and influential" in the country - Prime Minister Narendra Modi, actors Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir Khan, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and industrialist Anil Ambani - asking them to help fight rape and sexual harassment.
The letter - published on the site indicine.com days after a 25-year-old woman was raped in an Uber cab in Delhi - has quickly gone viral.
Shenaz, familiar as a former VJ to those who watched MTV's Most Wanted in the late '90s, writes about being sexually harassed herself, first as a 13-year-old in a marketplace, then while taking public transport to college and later as an aspiring model and actress. She also writes of friends and family having survived sexual assault.
She has cited the Delhi cab rape in specific and calls for all rapists to be given the death penalty - "NO BAIL. Just Death."
The cab rape has shocked and shamed a country still reeling from the fatal brutalization of a medical student on a Delhi bus and the gang-rape of a journalist in an abandoned Mumbai mill in the last year. Prominent voices across India have been raised in protest, many of them from the film fraternity that Shenaz belongs to.
Shenaz has appeared in a handful of high-profile movies such as Hum Tum and Delhi Belly. She has a film out tomorrow - Main Aur Mr Riight, co-starring TV actor Barun Sobti.
We reproduce some excerpts from her open letter, available in full on indicine.com , below:
"Dear Narendra Modi, Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Anil Ambani, I am writing to YOU specifically because you are the most powerful and influential MEN in our country. I am writing to you as a woman who grew up in a middle class family in Mumbai. I am writing to YOU for HELP!
"My parents may not like me saying this. I apologize to them if they are reading but this is NOT MY SHAME. It's THIER SHAME.My first experience with the opposite sex, was when I was just 13 and groped by a man (never saw his face but will never forget his hand) while walking in the vegetable market with my mom. She had just given me the worst haircut and as an angry teenager I was upset at her and was lagging behind as she walked ahead. I still remember what I was wearing. It was her dress, mustard with flowers and little bow in the front. How I hate that dress! As if, it was the dress's fault. I was shocked at first. Speechless. He disappeared. I just stood there. Tears started pouring out of my innocent eyes. I told my mom who went mad screaming in the market but who knew where that man disappeared to. I still remember the dirty feeling I had and the number of times I showered in my grand-mom's bathroom after. That feeling never went away."
"When I was 15, I started going by train and bus to St. Xaviers' College. I was groped and touched and from all angles and this was just how I grew up. Not Just Me but MOST INDIAN WOMEN who don't have the luxury of cars and drivers. As a teenager I would dream of and still sometimes dream that I had a machine gun and could kill all the men who tried to grope me. A very disturbing dream for a kid, don't you think?"
"I developed ways to defend myself, I always carried a bag in front of me, my fist was always clenched, I always turned around every 20 seconds to check who was behind me and a few times I slapped men who touched me, I got slapped back many times too. Sometimes saved by the public, MOST TIMES NOT. My mom begged me not to pick fights with men who touched me, she was afraid of acid being thrown at me or that somebody someday would hurt me badly. She is STILL AFRAID and today she told me not to take an UBER to my meeting tomorrow. Hell ya. BAN UBER! Make everyone take responsibility for this."
"One of my friends in college was RAPED on the train on her way home in the ladies compartment. She was sick and was going home in the 11:15 break. There was nobody in the first class compartment going back to Bandra at that time, it was a superfast meaning it didn't stop at most stations. He raped her and then jumped off after using her scrunchy (hair tie) to wipe himself. She was the only one on the train and had to limp her way back to her home in Bandra, bleeding profusely. She was just 16. This she felt was her shame so she did not say anything to anyone."
"What good are all your speeches in the US or Japan or AUSTRALIA- NAMO, if no woman can walk freely in the streets even in broad daylight by herself in the CAPITAL OF OUR COUNTRY. Isn't this a SHAME? SHAME ON YOU SIR."
"I'm ready to do anything. I'm not a big enough celeb but you Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Sharukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Anil Ambani SIRS- need to speak up as MEN ( you are the men with the power)
Please demand the Death Sentence for the Rapists.
NO BAIL. Just Death.
Superstars I beg you, please take a stand. Use your Superstardom and Power and MONEY and save the women of our country. SAVE US!
I urge you to protest or go on a fast or do something DRASTIC so people take notice, the government wakes up and CHANGES the LAW so these men are terrified to touch us.
Death to rapists. No bail. Just death.
Imagine Amitabh Bachchan Sir, Aamir Khan, Salmaan Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Ambani- if you went on a fast or walked to the Rashrtrapati In Delhi. If you, took this stand and made this YOUR NO 1 issue, how much change there would be?!"