New Delhi: Stand-up comic Utsav Chakraborty, who was accused of sexual harassment by several women amid the #MeToo campaign last year, has defended himself on Twitter.
Over a series of tweets posted Thursday, he sought to establish that he shared consent and familiarity with at least two of the women. He categorically denied seeking intimate photos from a third accuser.
The tweets came a day after an unverified YouTube user called “EXPOSE MAHIMA” shared two viral audio clips, purportedly a conversation between Chakraborty and the woman who first accused him of inappropriate behaviour, Mahima Kukreja.
The latter’s lawyer-sister Mansi, who is also said to be a part of the conversation, is allegedly heard threatening Chakraborty with court action if he “leaks certain screenshots” of Mahima. ThePrint could not independently verify the authenticity of the clips.
Chakraborty’s tweets, which name three previously anonymous accusers, have polarised social media, with some users questioning its impact on #MeToo.
In the wake of Chakraborty’s comments, one of the women, Chanya Jaitly, acknowledged sending intimate photos to the comic, but two others, Kanika Kaul and Kukreja, stuck to their claims. A fourth accuser, who goes by the Twitter handle @ms_escapist, hadn’t responded by the time of publishing this report.
MeToo comes to India
In October 2018, at the peak of MeToo in India, Kukreja put out a Twitter post saying Chakraborty had sent her “unsolicited d*** pics” in 2016. She said she had told two prominent male comedians about it, but they had done “nothing”.
Several other women subsequently came forward with their own allegations against Chakraborty, and Kukreja posted some of their accounts to her timeline, their names blurred.
At the time, Chakraborty put out a thread apologising for his “misconduct”. “I could say I was not in control and doing it to chase a kick but IT DOESN’T ABSOLVE ME,” he wrote.
“Now I know I have been the exact monster I’ve been trying to fight all my life. And I would like to do everything I can to make this better for everyone who has been hurt.”
Fellow stand-up comic Tanmay Bhat, who worked with Chakraborty in AIB, also conceded to knowing Kukreja’s allegation and apologised for “staying quiet”.
The thread Chakraborty posted Thursday referred to three allegations that surfaced at the time, including Jaitly and Kaul’s. He also sought to criticise Kukreja for allegedly manipulating the narrative to portray Kaul as younger than she was.
Continuing with the kind of language @AGirlOfHerWords was using – she was deliberately trying to make @kanikakaul22 look like she was much younger than I was. Because that would fit the powerful predator narrative far better, no? pic.twitter.com/oxvxeDwFH4
— Utsav Chakraborty (@Wootsaw) November 21, 2019
"Why would so many women lie about one person?"
In the next few tweets, I will tackle all the malicious insinuations and abject falsehoods put forth on me either by @AGirlOfHerWords or the media frenzy that followed. Stay tuned.
— Utsav Chakraborty (@Wootsaw) November 21, 2019
He claimed that a viral screenshot, in which he requested Jaitly to “get naked”, was taken after she deleted her own replies to his requests, complying.
The screenshot showed her saying she “won’t be comfortable”, apparently replying to repeated requests for a nude video.
“Her saying ‘won’t be comfortable’ was a reply to me asking her to talk in the video I was asking her to send. It was NOT a comment on my seemingly relentless barge of words,” Chaktaborty wrote in his tweets.
Jaitly backed the claim, saying the edited screenshot, which she’d shared with an ex-boyfriend, had been leaked without her consent by a user called “Sanil Gosavi”. She also apologised to Chakraborty and has since deleted her account.
Chakraborty also sought to question the allegations made by Kaul, who had accused him of soliciting “topless” photos of her through Snapchat, a social media app, in 2016.
In her allegation, which was published by Kukreja, the woman said Chakraborty and she had been in touch, but the request was “out of the blue”.
Kaul said she then blocked Chakraborty on Snapchat. Referring to a text message he’d sent her, she claimed she didn’t know where he got her number from.
In the Twitter thread posted Thursday, Chakraborty said Kaul sent him her number in 2017, through Snapchat.
He also sought to claim that Kaul was only a year younger than him, and not “much younger”, as Kukreja had initially implied.
Chakraborty, however, didn’t deny that he’d asked Kaul for topless pictures.
Kaul posted a series of tweets Friday where she asserted that the incident had really happened. “I am sorry I said I blocked him… and I wasn’t sure from where he got my number,” she said, adding that “these [facts] were not misrepresented on purpose or with malicious intent”.
“I just forgot. I am sorry,” she said, adding that she understands “how my lapses in memory have changed the narrative completely”. “There was and is nothing for me to gain from this. Putting this out there is scary enough,” she added.
Now let me say that I understand how my lapses in memory have changed the narrative completely. I thought I have blocked him. I didn't remember giving him my number. I don't have screenshots to prove that I am telling the truth.
— 🌺 (@kanikakaul22) November 22, 2019
“The message made me feel uncomfortable immediately. It was out of the blue and there had been absolutely no conversation of that nature before. Unfortunately there are no screenshots. This is the nature of Snapchat. This is my first mistake,” she said.
Chakraborty also denied all allegations of sending unsolicited pictures in his thread.
ThePrint emailed Kukreja for comment but she hadn’t replied until the time of publishing. However, she appeared to refer to the audio clips in a tweet posted Wednesday.
“Please don’t believe the baseless rumours about me online. This is an orchestrated attack to silence my voice and the voices of other women who dared to speak out against men getting away with sexual harrassment [sic] or abuse,” she said. “Real women with real stories. Which I have with me.”
Social media reacts
Chakraborty’s tweets became an instant talking point on social media, with several users coming to his defence and calling the #MeToo movement a “witch hunt” based on “fake” allegations.
Women should not have to apologise for forgetting their interactions with men who have made them uncomfortable. If we collectively have forgotten that people bury details of trauma because it's, well, traumatic — we've not learned shit from MeToo.
— Sonia Mariam Thomas (@SoKneeOh) November 22, 2019
perfectly normal and okay for a man accused of sexual harassment to individually and publicly name his accusers who had chosen to stay anonymous. we should 100% trust his intentions. women should 100% have to scrape and beg forgiveness for small lapses in memory. totally normal
— Umang Kalra (@earthflwrs) November 22, 2019
I'll be honest, for me, this was the screenshot that tipped the balance and took me from benefit of doubt to thinking Utsav deserved what he was getting. This is just…wow. How low can you stoop? https://t.co/67ZiFaic59
— Azeem Banatwalla (@TheBanat) November 21, 2019
Hmmm “believe her” they said …. because you know women don’t lie and never have over 5000 years of recorded human history. The problem here is poor Utsav will never get an apology & this piece of shit will get away with what is effectively criminal defamation https://t.co/fFxVRlhSn8
— Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) November 21, 2019
Others pointed out that the thread didn’t actually prove Chakraborty’s innocence, since he had exposed women who wanted to be anonymous and speculated on their behalf as to why they might have falsely accused him.
To lawyers, the exchange is riddled with loopholes. “It’s clear that he’s admitted that his modus operandi is asking for nudes — but in cases like this, there’s a big misinterpretation when it comes to consent, especially on the part of men,” said Tahini Bhushan, a lawyer who has worked on several pro bono cases for sexual harassment survivors.
“There are too many loopholes on both sides — when conversations of sexual harassment happen, whole conversations and screenshots don’t come to light and it becomes difficult to identify the moment in which the alleged instance took place,”she added. “For example, how are we to know that his screenshots haven’t been manipulated?”
Lawyer Tara Narula said Chakraborty had not exonerated himself. “There’s too much piecemeal information… Unless someone goes to court, we won’t know all the information,” she added.