Kommune's well-known slam poetry personality Shamir Reuben accused of sexual misconduct

Mumbai teenager Sakina Bootwala and other girls came out against Reuben accusing him of misbehaviour

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In the last couple of years, incidences with well-known personalities being accused of sexual misconduct or assault have surfaced and thus followed global campaigns like #MeToo and #TimesSup. In India, right from former Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal to TVF's chief Arunabh Kumar, many have been involved in sexual misconduct. 

Recent social media revelation has accused a poet and a famous personality amongst youngsters of sexual misconduct. 25-year-old slam poetry writer Shamir Reuben, Head of content at Kommune, has been accused by 19-year-old Sakina Bootwala of misconduct and what followed next was shocking. 

A number of screenshots, other girls stepping up and accusing Shamir Reuben of the same and an unclear, apologetic message from Shamir himself has stirred unrest in the poetry community.

Here's Sakina's Facebook Post


Trigger warning: abuse

The poetry community has been a safe space for everyone who is a part of it, including me. However, I've been wondering how much of a safe space it can really be when an extremely well-known face of the community, who speaks about women empowerment, equality and pretty much all the other relevant social issues there are, is a closet predator who preys on young, naive girls, of whom a lot were minors when he sexted them, coerced them into sending him nude pictures, and in some cases even forced himself on them. It's disgusting to have to watch someone like them snap their fingers when performers on stage speak about sexual assault and harassment, knowing that they're perpetuators of the same behaviour.

As someone who has been extremely vocal about my disdain for said person in my private circles, I've had to face people who defend this behaviour by saying that it was probably a misunderstanding, because someone as nice as them couldn't possibly indulge in the very sick habits that they speak against all the time. And you cannot blame them because this person is a manipulative genius who has figured out exactly how to portray themselves as an angelic idol of equality, compassion, empathy, etc.
This is precisely why I, and other women I know, haven't spoken about it before, and perhaps there are many more I do not know who haven't. It's scary to have to speak against someone at such a high social position, who is known for being the poster boy of humanity, with friends and supporters of equally high stature, and such a huge following.

But I'm absolutely done being scared, no justice ever came from fear.

I was hardly a couple months into junior college, and an extremely innocent, dumb kid from a sheltered school, when ask.fm was raging. It was through ask.fm that I came into contact with Shamir Reuben. He approached me with a simple, sweet message, and we exchanged numbers. This was someone that was looked up to by everyone on the site, including me. Which is why I was extremely confused when he attempted to initiate sexting. I was far too naive to realise what was going on, however I was extremely uncomfortable so I played it off and managed to dodge the conversation.

It seemed fairly harmless, I even thought I was just being awkward and misunderstanding things, maybe that's just how people of that age spoke and behaved, and I shouldn't be reading too much into things. So I let it go.
I continued to occasionally speak to him as though nothing had happened. I still thought of him as the person he portrayed himself to be. But I still felt weird every time I thought of that one conversation.
I then distanced myself from him.
However, I then spoke to a friend who confided in me about how he'd behaved inappropriately with her. That is when I realised that the incident with me wasn't an isolated one, and i was not over thinking it.
We were both minors at the time.

Over the years I've maintained diplomacy, I've cordially greeted him at events, indulged in small talk, and generally behaved "normal".
But I'm sick of pretending that I'm not furious with him and absolutely disgusted by his behaviour, we've all been conditioned to protect the identity of such people due to the consequences that they may have to face, but I think it's time he's made aware of the repercussions of his behaviour.

On grounds of full disclosure, I personally do not have any proof of his messages to me, because I was a kid at the time and couldn't be expected to have the presence of mind to save screenshots for evidence considering I didn't even know that what was going on was wrong until much later.

To conclude, the reason I'm putting this out now, is because I have come into contact with multiple people who have made me realize that this was not just a single incident and there may be more who shall be encouraged to speak out if I do so.
I think the poetry community ought to really be the safe space that we think it is
If there are any more girls out there who have had similar experiences, I urge you to speak about them, you have my support.

Shamir can deny this if he wants, I'd like to see him try to explain it away. However, I stand by what I said. Now, more than ever, considering the amount of scenarios that have come to light. If there are any of you who aren't convinced of the kind of filth he's capable of, I'm sorry about that, but I'm not going to beg you to believe me, I'll leave that up to your better judgment.





This did not stop here, many girls came ahead and alleged that Reuben had misbehaved with them as well. 

When the post went viral, Reuben posted an apology statement on Facebook where he mentioned that he was sorry if he made any of his colleagues feel uncomfortable and denied any wrongdoing.

Even though he put forth his stand, Kommune, an art/live performance collective based out of Mumbai, ousted Reuben who was accused of sexual misconduct.

Girls who came out with their stories of sexual misconduct have not yet filed an FIR against Reuben. 


Who is Shamir Reuben?


Shamir Gabriel Reuben is a writer and spoken word poet who works as a Head of Content and Social Media at a live performance collective called Kommune, where his work has been featured by Hindustan Times, Buzzfeed India, Storypick, Network 18 and more. Shamir has performed at 70 shows across five states in India and utilises spoken word as a medium to galvanise social change through storytelling.

Mumbai Live tried speaking to Reuben and Sakina, but both of them were unreachable. It remains to be seen what lies ahead in this case. Certainly, a poet talking about women empowerment and gender equality being allegedly involved in sexual misconduct is unnerving. 

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