#MeToo accused puts out defence

Comedian Utsav Chakraborty, ousted from his job last year, posts screenshots to suggest his sexting was consensual, and he was wrongly accused

Last week, comedian and YouTuber Utsav Chakraborty, who went off the grid after he was named and shamed in the #MeToo movement, returned, armed with what he deems proof of innocence.

In a series of tweets, he posted screenshots of conversations with the women who had accused him, saying that while he had engaged in flirtatious conversations, at no point were they nonconsensual.

In a long conversation with Metrolife, he says the incident cost him not just his job but also left him friendless. 

Mahima Kukreja, the first to accuse him, has put out her response to his recent posts.

She maintains Utsav was in the wrong and had “sexually harassed and emotionally blackmailed her into silence”. Keeping screenshots of their conversations was a violation of her privacy. She ended the statement asking him to “own up, apologise, and take reformative therapy”.

Utsav’s story 

Metrolife spoke to Utsav to find out why he chose to come out now, and what he hopes to achieve. 

“I have had proof since October of last year, and I was planning to put it out in December once the frenzy had calmed down,” he says. He adds that he had approached multiple publications saying he had proof of his innocence but they did not respond or take it forward.  

“Nobody was willing to even talk to me, let alone represent me. Now many lawyers are offering to do so,” he says.

He says he is not inclined to sue, but is convinced he was targeted unfairly because he was ‘a small fish’.

“I believe it was only Mahima that had malicious intent. Others just wanted to be a part of the clique,” he says.

The ‘mob thinking’ that put him in the dock lets more powerful people who have committed “quantifiably more heinous” actions off the hook, he told Metrolife.

“The language used against me by Mahima was deplorable. It incited scores of people to abandon me and leave me virtually unemployable,” he says. 

He acknowledges his privilege as a man and describes false cases as ‘collateral damage in the course of women being heard.’ 

“I felt guilty because someone felt bad due to my actions. Even if the actions were never to hurt. That much I can ascertain,” he says.

His apology, he says, was a result of his friends telling him that this was the best way to move on.

He hopes his decision to post screenshots will get him his life back. “I don’t want to cancel anybody, but I do hope they introspect and feel remorse about what they have done,” he says.

No comment

Metrolife contacted Mahima Kukreja and some #MeToo campaigners, and they declined to comment on the developments. One campaigner said the issue was “done and dusted”. She added that the movement is bigger than its people. “l’m sure the movement will be fine.”

Why women turn to social media

Many women choose to not file complaints because they may have to fight a long and expensive legal battle.

“A woman raped by a colleague approached me. She had a medical report confirming the rape, but refused to file a complaint as her parents would get to know she had been drinking at the time of the incident,” says advocate Geetha Menon.

She says many women who come forward, even if their claims are true, they put themselves at the risk of being slapped with defamation cases.

Powerful men use the fear of the legal process to silence their victims, says Deepika.

“Unless the women can prove they were scared of personal and professional repercussions, delayed accusations don’t hold in court. However, if the incident took place when they were minors, the delay could be overlooked,” she says.

The legal process is long-drawn and those who approach the courts must be strong enough to withstand multiple cross examinations, and relive the trauma, she says.

Fast track courts for such cases would encourage more women to come out, she reckons. 

Deepika Narayan Bhardwaj, who has made a documentary film on false rape cases, finds the law loaded against men. “The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, says if sexual intercourse is proved and a woman says that she did not consent, her word is taken as the truth,” she says. 

LEGALLY SPEAKING

For the accuser

Advocate Geetha Menon says the accusations were made years after the incidents, and so had legal limitations.

For the accused

The media believed the women readily, says Deepika. “Utsav’s case debunks the idea that multiple women cannot be making up stories,” she argues.

Both lawyers say the only way an accused can clear his name is to file a defamation case, which could go on for many years. Issue an apology, if guilty, they advise.

ACCUSATIONS AND AFTER

Oct 4, 2018: Mahima Kukreja accused comedian Utsav Chakraborty of sending women lewd messages and photos. She also shared screenshots.

One of her tweets: “I told two of the most influential men in comedy in India. Nothing happened. Let me tell you what else he has done with others.”

---Mahima Kukreja (@AGirlOfHerWords) October 4, 2018.

Amid the barrage of allegations, Utsav posted an apology the same day, which many slammed as insincere. He writes: “To be honest, from all accounts, I’ve been a piece of s**t. And I will try to do everything I can work past that. There was no excuse. I know inconsiderate and entitled. Even in this narrative, when this whole thing started, I kept looking at myself as the victim.”

Oct 5: All India Bakchod (AIB), the comedy collective that was collaborating with him, issued an apology. Mahima said she had alerted Tanmay Bhat, co-founder of AIB about Utsav’s behaviour and the collective had continued to work with him, regardless. Utsav then disappeared from the public eye.

Nov 20, 2019: YouTube channel ‘Expose Mahima’ puts up two audio recordings of a conversation between her, her lawyer and sister Mansi Kukreja, and Utsav.

Nov 21: Utsav posted the first of his tweets defending himself: “In the next few tweets, I will tackle all the malicious insinuations and abject falsehoods put forth on me either by @AGirlOfHerWords (Mahima) or the media frenzy that followed. Stay tuned.”

Nov 26: Mahima responded to Utsav’s tweets, saying he is wrong all the same.

Nov 30: Mahima made her Twitter account private.

 

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