Mahima Kukreja on Utsav Chakraborty allegations: 'Campaign to malign me, women who spoke up, #MeToo movement'
The following post is a prepared statement Mahima Kukreja has shared with Firstpost, in response to Utsav Chakraborty's recent claims that she and other women fabricated their #MeToo allegations against him. This statement has not been edited, except for typos.
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.
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.
Scores 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.
Firstpost reached out to @GabbbarSingh for a statement via Twitter. They said, "I commented on something that was in the public domain, it was a fair comment and simply my opinion, it's up to the parties involved to sort it out."
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Updated Date: Nov 26, 2019 17:07:36 IST