#MeToo in India: Ira Trivedi sends legal notice to Chetan Bhagat, says 'women can win self-respect through boycott'

Writer and yoga exponent Ira Trivedi, who recently narrated her own #MeToo experience in a column in the Outlook magazine, accusing Chetan Bhagat of sexual misconduct, on Monday slapped a legal notice on the Half Girlfriend writer for a range of misdemeanours, including defamation of character.

 #MeToo in India: Ira Trivedi sends legal notice to Chetan Bhagat, says women can win self-respect through boycott

Chetan Bhagat. AFP

Bhagat on 15 October put up a screenshot of a mail Trivedi wrote to him in 2013 to counter her claim that he tried to forcibly kiss her in his room after inviting her to tea at the India International Centre. Trivedi signed the mail off with the word “kiss” which Bhagat used to pose the question “who kissed whom” to his 12.5 million Twitter users — an action that Trivedi said has caused her enormous mental trauma.

“He maligned my reputation because he said to his to 12.5 million followers that I tried to kiss him, that is extremely awful. He selectively produced this email trail, in a manner which is completely out of context,” Trivedi told Firstpost over the phone.

“These statements have been made in the background of me calling him out in the #MeToo campaign. He’s trying to give the impression that I am trying to derail the movement because of personal vendetta,” she said. Trivedi said the trolling that followed Bhagat’s tweet has caused her mental strain and anxiety.

By jibing ‘who is trying to kiss whom’, as a married man with children, Bhagat is casting aspersion on her character, she said. “For the Indian masses, the society that we live in, it’s taken in an extremely negative way. I was trolled for one week, and got hate messages asking me why I would say this to a married man with children.”

His reach on Twitter, she said, amplified that message, damaging her credibility as a writer and a journalist she said.

“He’s a thousand times more famous than I am,” she said. “His attempts to kiss me and proposition me and his groping of my friend amount to offences under Sections 509 and 354A of the IPC, his tweets and online statements about my allegations fall under sections  of Sections 354D and Section 503 of the IPC,” the writer wrote to this Firstpost writer on WhatsApp on advice from her lawyer on why Bhagat is being sued.

According to Trivedi, she used the word “kiss” simply as a salutation at the end of an email she “shot off in a hurry” and that it was simply a figure of speech. Trivedi said “Bhagat tried to bring it (the kiss) up again and again” though he didn’t share that on Twitter. “I dodged the question, I just stopped responding completely,” she said. She sent Firstpost screenshots of the subsequent exchanges with Bhagat. The author wrote back, “Kiss...hmmm...figure of speech or is something changing around here?”

“My client therefore calls upon you notice to
1. issue an unconditional public apology through print and electronic media of national circulation and reach
2. withdraw/remove your defamatory statements dated 15-10-2018 against my client from your twitter account
3. issue correspondence to all media portals which have published your defamatory statement within 10 days of receipt of this legal notice, failing which my client will be constrained to take appropriate legal action against you including prosecuting you for civil and /or criminal defamation and recourse to other legal proceedings at appropriate platform at your own risk, cost and consequences,” the legal notice sent out by her lawyer Avijit Singh, stated.

In his tweet, Bhagat had said: “So who wanted to kiss whom? @iratrivedi’s self-explanatory email from 2013 to me, esp last line, easily shows her claims from 2010 are false, and she knows this too. This mental harassment of me and my family has to stop. Please don’t harm a movement with #fakecharges #harassed.”

In subsequent tweets, he added: “Ultimately, is this movement about the truth or blindly supporting a particular gender? Please don’t let your biases make you believe things that are not true. A person’s reputation is their most prized asset and takes a lifetime of work to earn. To have these motivated, fake attacks on me is abhorrent and the sickest thing a person can do. Please don’t support this kind of smear campaign.”

Trivedi said she needed to collect her thoughts and reach a stable mental state to think of future course of action. On Monday, she made public the entire email chain between Bhagat and her that she accused him of selectively tweeting out.

“There needs to be a collective call of action, women have got together, individuals have spoken up. Now corporations, publications, media channels all public platforms that have helped them make public figures should withdraw their platforms,” she said. Trivedi suggested institutions bring back a practice of civil resistance that played a big role in India’s freedom movement — boycott.

“We won back our country with a boycott. Women can win their self-respect through the same movement,” she said. Firstpost reached out to Bhagat’s press agent listed on his website as his India press contact for a comment via phone calls, a mail and text messages. On phone, she promised to get back after consulting with Bhagat. As soon as Bhagat puts out a statement, the story will be updated with his comment.

Updated Date: Oct 22, 2018 15:34:44 IST