As Utsav Chakraborty calls #MeToo allegations 'fabricated'; Mahima Kukreja says he needs to own up, apologise

Neerja Deodhar and Anvisha Manral

Nov 25, 2019 16:13:03 IST

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Monday, 25 November 2019. It has been updated on Tuesday, 26 November, to reflect Mahima Kukreja's statement.

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In October 2018, the second wave of the #MeToo movement was triggered in India with a series of tweets from women calling out their alleged harassers. Among those tweets was one by aspiring comedian Mahima Kukreja, who alleged that AIB collaborator Utsav Chakraborty had sent her unsolicited photos of his genitalia. As the accusations on Twitter grew, Kukreja shared stories from other women who said they had been propositioned by Chakraborty: some alleged that he had asked them for nude photos, others detailed accusations similar to Kukreja’s — of Chakraborty sending them photos of his genitals.

A little over a year after the #MeToo allegations against him were first shared, Chakraborty has said that they were fabricated by Kukreja and others.

Last October, Chakraborty had issued an apology on Twitter, even as he was met with widespread condemnation. Leading comics, including Aditi Mittal, Kunal Kamra and Abhishek Upamanyu, called him out on social media. AIB released a statement acknowledging that founder Tanmay Bhatt had been made previously aware of the allegations against Chakraborty, but had continued to work with him. AIB then delisted all of Chakraborty’s videos, but the collective itself was ultimately dissolved as unrelated allegations were raised against another founder, Gursimran Khamba.

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Chakraborty's counter-claim last week was preceded by a YouTube channel called ‘Expose Mahima’ releasing two audio clips (one is roughly six-minutes-long, the other clocks in at 42 minutes-plus), purportedly of a telephonic conversation between Kukreja’s sister (who is also her legal counsel) Mansi and Chakraborty. The recordings seem to indicate that Mahima (who joined the conversation later) and Mansi Kukreja threatened to take legal action against Chakraborty, should he make public any information damaging of Mahima’s reputation. The Kukrejas’ stance was seemingly a response to rumours of Chakraborty having gathered enough evidence to vindicate himself, by speaking to multiple women who had accused him of sending sexually explicit messages.

Additionally, through the course of their conversation, Chakraborty maintained he was innocent and was being targeted by different people with agendas of their own. He also accused fellow comics Mittal and Upamanyu of “throwing him under the bus” during the #MeToo movement to pursue their personal vendettas against Only Much Louder (OML) and AIB.

Around the same time as the audio recordings, a reddit user claimed to have information that Kukreja had falsified the allegations against Chakraborty. A screenshot shared by comic Manik Mahna on Twitter, two days before the audio recordings were released on YouTube, seemingly depicts a chat between Kukreja and Chakraborty, in which they discuss her having sent him a nude photo, and asking him for a picture (in response to which, apparently, the aforementioned image of the genitalia was sent).

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Amid these developments, Chakraborty has continued countering the other allegations made against him last year, via his Twitter handle. Firstpost reached out to both Kukreja and Chakraborty with requests for comment. Kukreja responded to our questionnaire seeking verification of the identities of the people in the audio clips, and her rejoinder to Chakraborty's counter-allegations, by sharing a prepared statement. It has been included at the end of this edited excerpt from a telephonic conversation with Chakraborty:

 As Utsav Chakraborty calls #MeToo allegations fabricated; Mahima Kukreja says he needs to own up, apologise

Utsav Chakraborty. File photo

FIRSTPOST: Do you know who created the YouTube channel ‘Expose Mahima’?

Chakraborty: I gave out the audio recording of what had happened when Mahima’s ‘lawyer’ threatened me. There’s another 20 minutes to the conversation that’s not in it. I sent these recordings to around 100 people — people I knew, people who could spread it. No one cared about it at that point.

A lot of people are asking, ‘Why is he coming out with this information right now?’ The answer is that no one would listen to me in 2018, even if I said I have all the proof in the world. All the publications that used me as a lynchpin figure would have to correct themselves, which they weren’t going to do because the narrative was set, and it is about narrative. It is about the things that have been said. Back then, it wasn’t an option.

Even my screenshots and everything, there are backups... People who consensually sent me nudes are saying that I sent them an unsolicited dick pic, because that became the thing — I became the dick pic king at that juncture… I’m straying away from your question. What was your question?

Do you know the person who created the channel?

No. I have a feeling I know but don’t want to name the person, because they’re helping me.

Were the recordings put up with your consent?

At this point, how does it matter?

I’m trying to ascertain if you knew they were going up at this particular time.

No, no. I wanted the recordings to be out, and they were being shared in private circuits — the comedy scene, anyone I had to personally convince, because no one believed me right? I was that lunatic conspiracy theorist who was saying, ‘This happened to me’ and no one believed me. I became a pariah. I had to get my friends back, that is why I put the recordings out. And I have been sharing the recordings ever since I had the conversation. It gave me my friends back, yes, but who put it up on YouTube? I don’t know. I have a feeling I know, but I’m not going to disclose.

Can you tell me the identities of the three people who feature in the call recordings?

Me, Mahima Kukreja, and her lawyer/sister Mansi Kukreja.

Was this a phone call you were expecting?

No, not at all. No one knows the context of what prompted this phone call: the context is that I told someone (who I thought I could trust) that I have collected screenshots and that I’m going to release them. I was going to release them because it was time for me to do it. A month or so later people said, ‘You should put everything out before people forget what happened.’ I was also ready, I told this person in confidence — I didn’t expect them to relay this information to anyone, especially Mahima — and within three minutes I get a call from Mansi Kukreja. This is what was in the first video [from ‘Expose Mahima’]; Mansi Kukreja called me up and told me they didn’t go to the Mumbai Police so I should be grateful. I told them, ‘Please go to the police. If you really want to, I am ready to.’

I was treated worse than criminals are. If I’m being very honest, actual rapists and assaulters get away with nothing or raps on their wrists, and I was treated like this, based on just her language and the idea of a dick pic. The idea of an unsolicited dick pic is so disgusting; everyone is grossed out at the mere thought of it. Any accusation that said I sent any unsolicited dick pic was wholly fabricated.

What would you say was the purpose of them calling you?

They found out that I have screenshots and they found out that I was reaching out to people whose screenshots Mahima had posted. Someone snitched on me.

Manik Manha has put out a tweet which has an excerpt of a conversation where one person is named – Mahima – and one is called ‘You’. Is this part of a conversation you had with Mahima Kukreja on Snapchat?

Yes. Yeah.

There’s a reddit post doing the rounds which is about “missing AIB”. In the post and the comments that follow, people are conjecturing about why Mahima posted an allegation against you. Are you aware of this post?

Yeah, I’ve been sent that post several times.

Would you know the author of the post?

Definitely someone who has talked to me because… this person knows things that I know. But I would talk to anyone. I was very lonely when this whole thing happened. Anyone on Instagram who’d tell me they knew something about Mahima Kukreja, I’d say to them, ‘Just tell me.’ And I would just talk to them.

But you don’t know who exactly has posted this on reddit?

That I actually don’t know, I genuinely don’t know. It seems like two-three people have written it together. Some bits I have definitely not told them, maybe they’ve heard it from someone else. Some bits even I wasn’t aware of — but my words are definitely there.

Can you tell us if you’re seeking legal recourse at the moment or will be in the future?

I cannot reveal that.

I know you’ve spoken about this in the call recording and briefly on Twitter as well, but can you recall the incident Mahima spoke about in her own allegation against you?

Mahima Kukreja was undoubtedly naked on one end in her Snapchat story. At least she looked naked. I messaged her asking if she was naked and she said, ‘Yeah, I am.’ I wrote, ‘Prove it.’ Then she sent me a picture which proved it, because it wasn’t the same picture as the one she posted as her story, which is what she’s now claiming. ‘Are we sexting?’ I asked her. Then she said, ‘I prefer the real deal.’

This is how it works, it’s cloak and dagger. The whole idea of sexting is that you speak in riddles. She had just sent me a picture of hers which proved she was naked. So I said I am touching myself, as a way to appreciate the picture she had just sent.

Then she said, ‘Why don’t you send me something?’ I wasn’t at home though, and wasn’t touching myself. I downloaded a picture of a penis and sent it to her. Her exact words in response were, ‘I’m flattered.’ To which I responded with a smiley face. After that she said, ‘But that’s not what I meant.’ This is the point at which I panicked, and I wondered, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’

A part of me was angry at myself and a part of me was angry at her because I felt the whole conversation was leading on in a weird way to me and I may have misconstrued it, it may have been miscommunication the whole time.

A dick pic to me is a funny thing, and when I did it, I went, ‘Geez, this is not — no no.’ The picture is still there but the text is disappearing. So I write to her in uppercase: ‘Please delete it right now.’ She probably sensed the panic. She said it was okay, and then she took a screenshot. When I asked her why, she said she took a screenshot to show me that she had not taken a screenshot. I didn’t understand, but I thought it doesn’t matter. ‘If you say so,’ I said, ‘I’m really sorry,’ I added. I apologised four or five times. And then she said, ‘It’s okay.’

I thought it was okay, that it was an honest mistake. If you talk to anyone who knows me, you’d know it was very in-character of things I do and have done. I apologised to her and I thought it was over. She wasn’t a stranger, we had been talking over Twitter DMs for 2-3 years. I was an online friend; we’d never met and to this date, I have not met her.

‘You asshole’ ‘You vile man’ — all the words that she used, I feel like that alone was a trigger for a lot of people and a lot of actual genuine survivors, I’m pretty sure, will also feel that this person had a lot of courage to call out someone. Except I never held a position of power [over her], she was not part of the comedy scene. She began doing comedy a week before she posted the allegation — on 28 September 2018.

What according to you were the intentions of the women who accused you, including Mahima Kukreja?

The posts I’ve put up so far are of people who abjectly lied, doctored screenshots, or they’re claiming amnesia. There will be more of them. What I feel was, the way Mahima wrote it, the way she wrote her piece, she implied that I was the worst person in the whole world. When she wrote it, it was a very triggering thing for a lot of people, I’m pretty sure. I’m going to go out on a limb and say this: I was probably not the worst thing to happen to any of these people. But I was the most visible thing. Unless you’re saying that in India every woman is having the best time of her life and there are no problems. Awful things happen every day, you’re telling me, my messaging them was the most insane thing?

It’s beyond me, because the thing is, I was vilified so much, with her words, with her language, they got her 4,000 retweets. Around that point… if someone had verified it, great. People who were very close to me, stopped messaging me. Some said that they felt disgusted that they ever trusted me. These are all people I had great relationships with. When she posted that allegation, a lot of people felt betrayed, that they had given me consent or people who I had never actually asked for anything or done anything odd to, they just found a reason to pile on me. Because they were like, at least her account is true. Just imagine each person piling on with each allegation. Each person may have considered, ‘Mine might not be the worst thing, but the other three are definitely true.’

Read her thread as well, a lot of the allegations read like, ‘I don’t know about the other girls, I didn’t have a great experience, but it’s not as bad as the other girls.’ And there are three people writing that. Who are the other girls? The worst, most mind boggling part was that people who used to send *me* unsolicited nudes messaged Mahima saying *I* was the creep. When women send unsolicited nudes, it’s a very different game, right, than when a guy does it? A guy’s unsolicited nude is not accepted, a woman’s is, because that’s how conditioning works. It’s just how we are raised and how we objectify.

One woman who sent me and my friends nudes, posted separately on Twitter, and her allegation was posted in Mahima’s thread. All weirdness was misconstrued as creepiness. Through the lens of the things Mahima said, I am a bad guy. There’s a difference between accidentally running over someone and running over someone on purpose. A lot of the interactions deemed me being creepy are just me being weird.

In the lens of her using words like ‘predatory’, ‘talks to 17-year-olds’, ‘he sends dick pics’ — this conflated narrative also started. Another story of someone who harassed a minor got conflated with mine because that is how the skirmish was built and that is what became the reigning narrative. You [media houses] are complicit in this because you did no research. You led to this person undeservingly getting to be in the position that she got to. You put me under a microscope; every action, however innocuous, was seen through a malicious lens. Weird turned into creepy, ignorance turned into entitlement, awkward flirting was construed as predatory behaviour.

It turned into mass hysteria, let’s not mince words here. What is happening to Mahima now, happened to me a year ago. And it was happening in a much more brutal fashion, and I had much more to lose. I was a semi-public figure. Peripherally famous. That's the worst kind of famous. Some recognition in some cliques but no money or any power. My final pay hike before I left AIB was Rs 40,000. I was 26 at the time. Oh yeah, and *I* left AIB on 2016. To join another writing team in OML that was paying slightly more. They never fired me. Also everyone in the circuit kind of knew about my Mahima incident, because *I* had told them.

None of the things that were said warrant what happened to me. It was a miscarriage of justice, it was a perception battle that she won.

Did you ask K* for a topless picture?

I have no idea. I’m pretty sure I didn’t ask for a “topless” picture, I may have said something suggestive at best. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel like it. I have a feeling I didn’t. But then again, did I deserve to lose a year over this? The tone she used, that I was this malicious, malevolent poltergeist, that narrative was obviously aided by her bullshit right?

India is an odd place where women have too many rights and not enough rights at the same time. All these people can continue harassing me, but what did I do that was so wrong? ‘Send nudes’ is a meme. I’m very eloquent in my texting with people, I’m wordy and I put in a lot of effort, I treat every exchange like a small novel. I will unequivocally say that I have not sent anyone unsolicited dick pics, including Mahima Kukreja. If anyone has any record of it, I am willing to take the course of law or whatever they have ready for me.

The moment someone accuses someone, and you realise that you’ve ever liked the guy or dated the guy… In [our] conversations, K* clearly liked me. I wasn’t even flirting. All these people who gained currency [by sharing allegations against me] became friends. A lot of people who hated AIB or the comedy scene or just wanted to have fun used me as a javelin. I was the perfect pawn in that situation.

What do you hope will come of the thread you’re currently posting on Twitter?

Some sense of restorative justice. I just want to go back to my old life. I just want to be able to step out, to be able to work. To have my right to a livelihood back. I want all the awful publications who did not do any research, the next time someone asks you, ‘Please investigate me,’ then do that.

Basically understand that I was thrown under the bus, people were trying to save their hides and jobs — more importantly jobs. They thought that by throwing me out they’d save 40 jobs, they didn’t know what kind of monster it was going to become and how it would come back to bite them. The next time someone is accused, you guys [the media] just check no — do a little journalism. Just because something is retweeted doesn’t mean it is true.

You ruined someone’s life, I was ready to off myself [sic]. Then I told myself, no — if I do, they win then. Everyone who accused me will escape unscathed and continue doing their jobs. Please understand what you’re doing to someone when you don’t know all the information. The only people who stood by me were people who had full context of what was happening and who I am. I wasn’t bullshitting about my medical condition either. When people ask me why I wrote that apology — of course I apologised, I didn’t know what else to do.

The apology you posted, at least the way it reads, it seemed to indicate a degree of guilt.

There was no guilt, okay.

I’m saying it indicated a degree of guilt, not that this is what you implied. And now you’re posting information that you want to use to prove the allegations wrong.

Not everything, but most things, yes.

Why did you post that apology in the first place?

Imagine 10,000 people telling you you’re a monster. You are the worst person, you should kill yourself. You should die. And you don’t know if you did it, there’s genuine ambiguity there — no but I didn’t, but? [sic] But now when 10,000 people are telling you, you start reassessing your memories, you start gaslighting yourself. You start thinking, maybe I did do all of this. But then I thought people used to send me nudes on their own most of the time. I would never ask most people. I didn’t have any of this information at the time.

When this was happening, the first 2-3 days, I couldn’t eat, I didn’t sleep at all, I would wake up scared and no one was there. I kept cutting people’s calls, I didn’t know how to deal with anything. It didn’t seem like anyone was supporting me, everyone was abandoning me one by one. I was given advice — especially by the women I knew — to just apologise. Eight or nine people told me I should apologise, that it would go away. I was still processing things while apologising, everything was a collage. I apologised under duress.

I’m confident when I say I didn’t mean a word of it, retrospectively. At that point I probably meant some of it. My mind was such a jumble, there were so many elements. So many awful things were being said to me. My parents stopped taking my calls, they thought the worst. People who bring up the apology now don’t realise that I was panicking then.

In the process of posting this thread, the women who were previously anonymous, their identities are being revealed. Can you comment on this?

I thought about this for the longest time, but if I posted with the names blurred out, everyone’s going to call it bullshit. They’re going to say this is not a real person, you’ve just Photoshop-ed it. How will I get someone to publicly apologise if they don’t know who they are. They have to be real people and there have to be some consequences.

Did you contact any of these women who accused you on a personal level?

I don’t know how to reach any of them, most of them have blocked me. Most of them accused me and then blocked me.

Were you aware that the call recordings were going to be released at this point?

No, that was very fortuitous.

There’s also the reddit post which you’ve clarified you don’t know when it was going to go up.

No, no. So, I was just talking to everyone. As I showed people the proof, I started getting support. They helped me, some helped with my medicines, some would pay for my travel. People were helping take care of the basic stuff. It was nice of them.

The question I’m asking is that to an outside observer, it would seem that the timing of these events is close.

Clearly one thing triggered the other, I didn’t know it was going to be a thing. You have to understand, no one doubted Mahima. Everyone was like, why would she lie, what does she have to gain from it? And I say, you do realise she was a complete no-one before October 2018. Then she became the Malala of the Indian #MeToo movement.

I’m still distraught, the burden of knowing that the people who are going to be called out might be getting trolled a lot, so I don’t feel good about that either. That’s not a good feeling at all. They were very unempathetic to my own situation, and these were the people who faked the screenshots. There were also people who messaged my personal circle and told them I had sent them dick pics. I have to do this weird, vengeful thing now because people are asking about the other women apart from Mahima...unless an investigator comes and investigates every claim Mahima put up — and they’re anonymous accounts — so you really have to figure out who said what.

So would you say that because the call recordings were released and people were responding to it, you were prompted to post that Twitter thread?

Yes, that was a major factor. I was not going to put out anything and I was even mad at Manik Mahna for a bit for sharing the screenshot that he did. I would never have done it on my own. I didn’t have the confidence to do it. I was pretty broken. Now I’m waiting for Mahima to respond, I hope she apologises in some capacity, because she just lied in almost every regard.

*Firstpost is not naming the woman as we do not have her permission to do so

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Statement from Mahima Kukreja:

For the past few days, YouTube and Twitter have been flooded with barrage of comments, publicly shaming me due to Utsav’s hate campaign. A few instances of such messages sent to me directly on Twitter are in Annexure A [Editor’s note: Firstpost has a copy of messages containing death threats, sent to Mahima Kukreja.].

Even after publicly and privately admitting to his predatory behaviour, Utsav is making baseless allegations after more than a year.

A carefully planned and orchestrated PR-led campaign has been led to malign me, the women who spoke up, and the #MeToo movement itself.

I am not sure what has triggered it, suddenly, after all this while and who is behind this.

As I understand it, Utsav’s friend, Manik floated an out-of-context screenshot, then a famous account, GabbbarSingh, with 1.3 million followers, tweeted false and defamatory statements that “Mahima asked Utsav not make her nudes public”. Or that I went around asking for rent money. GabbbarSingh also tweeted out a video of an apparent telephonic conversation between Utsav, my lawyer sister and I, illegally recorded without our knowledge, with a defamatory headline, which has since been deleted.

After this, a YouTube channel popped up called ‘Expose Mahima’, where a video with a clickbait headline that said “How Mahima Kukreja threatened Utsav Chakraborty Part 1” was released followed by a Part 2.

Since then various random people have been actively tweeting in support of the hateful campaign Utsav has launched. GabbbarSingh, has tweeted that the reason Utsav has come out after a year is because a girl called Ishita pushed and encouraged him. I am completely unaware of this sudden vendetta. Just when I thought that I am through with all the pain, anxiety and turmoil which came when I first made the allegations, my entire life has been thrown into chaos and I am being made to suffer further in spite of being a victim.

The visual and the description of the video are misleading, false, and contrary to the actual contents of the video/audio. The visual text of the video is deliberately wrong to target me with a hate campaign. The authenticity of the audio clip is disputed. I wonder how it has suddenly emerged in public after all these months. For all this while, there was no whisper of any such thing. On the contrary, Utsav is on record publicly apologising.

Even if I assume the call is unedited and correct, it is a serious breach of privacy. How and on what basis has a purported private conversation, recorded without knowledge, being released without the consent of the other side?

The contents of the audio, in any event, highlights Utsav cleverly framing the conversation to suit his narrative. He shouts, screams, cries, rants and interrupts every time he is told the truth that incriminated him. In the video put up on YouTube, my lawyer sister is also shown on call and there is no intimidation at all.

My well-wishers and I spent hours listening to the calls, looking for where I had apparently lied, threatened him or done anything for fame. There is no such thing. The call in fact, point by point corroborates what I have been saying over the years.

Background:

In the year, 2015 I had just moved to Bombay and had become online friends with Utsav Chakrobarty. I have never met him to date.

We exchanged pictures of dogs that we would randomly click. He was a friend in a strange city. We talked on different platforms, bantering, some lighthearted flirting, discussing feminism and so on.

In 2015, I posted a photo of myself on my public Snapchat story. The photo showed my face, my neck, and a hint of my shoulders.

Utsav replied to that story and tried to turn our chat into sexting. As someone who considered him a friend, I didn’t want to outright offend him. So I kept constantly trying to de-escalate it and repeatedly told him, I don’t like sexting, and sexting is not my thing at all. I thought it was clear to him that the conversations were at best flirtatious banters and two online friends joking.

Note: This is corroborated in a private Whatsapp Chat that Utsav sent me later, and even in the illegal recording Utsav has released.

Utsav would also later tweet this, talking of his mindset:

“And Snapchat was the worst thing to happen to me in this stage in my life. Some nice people did send me nudes there and I started assuming that everyone was that forthcoming and open to sexting. That was the worst thought that I could have had. But I did.”

He may have asked for a pic or something after a bit. In a still-joking manner I sent him a photo of my face, the same one from my public Snapchat story. I never sent him a nude — never, ever. I purposefully had sent him a face selfie to establish boundaries. Continuing banter, I may have asked him to reply.

To my shock and horror, Utsav replied to that selfie with a dick pic. I never asked Utsav for a nude, or a dick pic. It was an unsolicited dick pic. I never consented to seeing his genitals. It was sexual harassment, plain and simple.

After receiving the unsolicited picture of his genitals, I was taken aback and upset. I had considered him a friend, and he violated my boundaries.

The unsolicited pic was immediately followed by a barrage of apologies. He begged me to delete everything. Even before I could say something, he had already started apologizing, knowing very well that he had sexually harassed me. He told me his life will be ruined. He told me he has Lupus. He emotionally blackmailed me for weeks.

Here’s a tweet he made later, confirming this:

“And yes I did grovel. Tell her my career would be over before it began. That I have medical issues that I have to deal with for life. And those are expensive issues. But to use my illness as a crutch is stupid. But it's not like it's not relevant to this whole debacle.”

Utsav continued to gaslight me, asking to put things behind us, and made me feel guilty and confused over my own harassment. I think I may have even talked to him about dogs sometime in 2016.

But I blocked him everywhere and broke off all contact soon after.

Utsav later confirms this in a tweet:

“I tried to talk to Mahima (@agirlofherwords) & sort it out way back in 2016. She would have none of it and why would she? She has never known me in real life, and even if she did - how is that for a respite? Even if my intention wasn't to make her feel shitty the truth is, I did.”

After the incident, I had told Kunal Kamra about this — who had told Abhishek Upmanyu (whom I didn’t even know). I also told of this incident later to Tanmay, who I knew worked with him. All of them and AIB released public statements corroborating this. I am in no position to comment, if like Utsav, they turn around and retract from the versions conveyed earlier in public.

Beyond just his admission of guilt, the public statements also speak of how rampant his sexism was, and how well known his creepiness.

I had absolutely no incentive to lie. I told all of these people much before going public. Right from beginning, I was apprehensive about victim-blaming or slut-shaming that could follow.

Towards the end of September and early October, 2018, the media was flooded with various allegations of sexual harassment. Being a victim myself, I felt a general sense of despair and frustration. I had met a friend sometime earlier who told me how her comic ex-boyfriend harassed and abused her. I was reminded that every girl goes through some form of sexual harassment in one form or the other, either at work or otherwise. Yet, out of shame, or the fear of society, or the fear of going through the personal pain all over again while recounting the experience, girls suffer while the perpetuator faces no consequences.

In one of the conversations I had with a fellow comic about my friend’s abusive ex-boyfriend, I also mentioned how Utsav got away with it too. Again, this is even before going public. I’ve never wavered from the truth even once. I still have a copy of the said conversation and I am not making it public as of now, since it was a private one.

On the morning of 4 October 2018, on my way to work, I saw someone had retweeted Utsav's tweet. The tweet said something to the effect of how "Indian men harass foreign women on cruises".

After reading it, something inside me broke. I could not believe this man, who had sexually harassed and emotionally blackmailed me into silence was talking about Indian men harassing women.

I quote tweeted it with the incident, of how he had harassed me and sent me an unsolicited dick pic. As soon as I posted it, I started getting panic attacks. I was afraid of being intimidated, being labeled a liar, or any personal or professional consequence that could follow.

Scored of women messaged soon after to tell me how Utsav had harassed them too. Many stories came out. All these women voluntarily shared their stories with me, and consented to me sharing them. I was merely a conduit. And they trusted me to tell their stories, and I did.

Since then, many women have publicly owned up to their stories that I had shared. And many others have been recently doxxed by Utsav, their private chats recklessly and illegally released by him, shaming them, and sending abuse their way.

On the afternoon of 4 October 2018, after I went public with my story, my anxiety shot up. I called my mother and told her about what was unraveling. I then went to a friend’s place, and suffered debilitating anxiety attacks. Navin Noronha, Karunesh, Nanak's intern, and a few other friends and comics were present during that period, who also saw the same. My panic attacks left me breathless, unable to move or breathe. I met my therapist on 6 October, who told me I likely had PTSD and advised me to get away from it all and get on anxiety medication.

On 4, 5, and 6 October 2018, Utsav Whatsapped me to emotionally blackmail me. In the conversation he admitted to the truth and apologised, asking me how he can fix it. I have a copy of the messages exchanged on these days and since I have been left with no option on how to justify myself, I am making them public. [A copy of the messages exchanged is included below this statement.].

He also made tweets corroborating the events.

This entire debacle was followed by extreme public scrutiny, media blowing it up, cops and lawyers calling, it was very overwhelming and traumatic.

Regarding the illegal audio clip Utsav has released:

In November 2018, I heard from common acquaintances that Utsav would release some photos or screenshots etc. I had no knowledge of what these were. If they were even about me or about other women. I felt that he was capable of putting anything out-of-context, or distort or misrepresent anything to suit his narrative and blame me, in spite of the fact I was the one harassed.

I spoke to my lawyer sister. We felt that it is better to speak with him in good faith and find a way to move ahead and prevent any future mental anguish and avoid any further controversy.

It appears that Utsav made an audio recording. I never recorded any audio conversation nor were we aware that it was being illegally recorded by him. We didn't threaten him and we didn't do anything illegal.

I reiterate that the authenticity of audio clip is doubtful. Parts of the audio have been bleeped or altered by Utsav. I am not sure what he is hiding. We do not know if this is the correct and complete record of the call or if it has been tampered with.

Anyway, even on going through the illegal audio recording made by Utsav made, it is clear that:

1. Utsav was never asked or threatened not to release the screenshots.
2. He is being repeatedly and many times requested to just take permission and consent or at least disclose the contents before releasing anything related to me.
3. Utsav is repeatedly being told that he sent unsolicited picture of his genitals.
4. Utsav talks about other women he indulged in consensual chats with, trying to absolve himself of misconduct. Consent can be given and withdrawn anytime.
5. During the call Utsav also takes Abhishek and Aditi’s name again and again trying to insinuate that it was somehow a conspiracy hatched to take him down.

This is how unhinged Utsav was behaving since these were blatant lies and it proved my apprehensions of him maligning me in some way. I never spoke to either Aditi or Abhishek about this, and they both had no idea about me going public. I did not even know Abhishek, and only socially knew Aditi.

The video carrying the phone call with the clickbait headline is a bundle of lies. It is also a very clever ploy to kickstart the propaganda. Anyone with an unbiased, open mind can see it as a transparent attempt at creating false evidence and narrative.

What Utsav is doing right now is character assassination to all the women who told their truth. Doxxing their identities, releasing private and embarrassing  conversations so he could discredit their reputation, in turn, discrediting them, and through it all, intimidate the women into silence, preventing from truth to come out.

This is why women are afraid of speaking up.

Why did Utsav keep multiple screenshots of private conversations from years ago with multiple women from Snapchat and other apps, an act which is a violation of privacy in itself, unless he believed he might be called out for predatory behaviour in future and could use some of them out-of-context to serve his narrative?

And since most women don’t keep all chats, screenshots, meticulous details and records, as is normal behavior, and also because some of them don’t want to be reminded of their trauma, Utsav spent a year combing through everything (again, he saved and kept all private conversations apparently) to show any minute or small discrepancy so he could use it to discredit their entire story.

Truth is, Utsav sexually harassed me. I dare Utsav to show any nude picture which I shared with him or gave him the permission or liberty to send me a picture of his genitals. I disclosed the truth and took on an immense emotional burden helping other countless women tell their stories against many powerful men. I’ve created a resource list that helps people access affordable therapy. I have not made a single rupee out of the #MeToo movement. Utsav and other parties and individuals have come together to malign me and the #MeToo movement so powerful men can keep getting away with sexual harassment and abuse in some sick fantasy of revenge.

The reason it took me this while to release a statement was because I first had to deal with my mental wellbeing and needed to be with my family first. I was also not interested in the constant back-and-forth, the mudslinging, the PR, the limelight. Utsav says I did it for clout, and money.

I did not make any money. It is disgusting to say that a victim of sexual harassment is telling the truth to earn money. It has been an extremely challenging and debilitating experience in recounting what I have gone through and expressing it as above. It has not only been about sexual harassment over the unsolicited dick pic. It is also about constant emotional manipulation, blackmail and gaslighting by Utsav for no reason, other than to make me suffer further.

I would like for Utsav to own up, apologise, and take reformative therapy. And to the women he’s doxxing, please be strong.

Annexure to Mahima Kukreja&... by Firstpost on Scribd

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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2019 09:05:37 IST