New Delhi: After stand-up comedian Utsav Chakraborty, who has featured in videos of comedy collective AIB, was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women on social media, AIB came out with a second statement within 24 hours.”
The group conceded that they continued to collaborate with Utsav even after AIB co-founder Tanmay Bhat received “specific, detailed allegations” in a “personal conversation”.
On Friday, the AIB posted an apology on social media saying “we messed up”. Titled “We’re sorry”, it explained how a confrontation between Tanmay and Utsav led to further harassment for the victim. They clarified that the private conversation between the two happened after Chakraborty had stopped being their employee, but said they made a “big mistake” and should have cut all ties immediately.
“By harassment, we meant that Utsav called up the person, cried, apologised, putting her in an uncomfortable position,” it said. However, since the victim did not want to pursue a legal case at that time, “out of respect for the person’s privacy, nobody else at AIB was informed”.
The apology comes after intense social media trolling and accusations of AIB’s involvement in shielding the accused despite knowledge of his actions. AIB had initially said that Chakraborty stopped working with them in 2016. However, in the second apology, they owned up to working with him even after 2016.
However, the note was heavily slammed on Twitter with many claiming the apology was too little, too late. Some people also dug up old posts by Bhat and other AIB members such as Rohan Joshi.
The comedian has been accused of sending unsolicited pictures of his genitals to women and girls. The allegations surfaced as part of a Twitter thread about the appalling behaviour of a large group of Indian men on a cruise in Australia last month.
In his first few posts responding to the allegations, Chakraborty said “this whole thing needs patience” and “incredible amount of context”. He denied some of the allegations while admitting that “getting nudes from a person was an instant rush” for him.
In his head, he claimed, it was “just plain sexting”. After oscillating wildly between defiance and contrition, Chakraborty tweeted an apology.
The floodgates opened with a woman’s post on Thursday that Chakraborty had sent her a photo of his genitals.
Soon, it became a #MeToo ripple and then a tide of charges.
Some women claimed he had sent explicit and offensive direct messages on social media and asked for nude images from them too.
As the tweets circulated, AIB said it would remove every video featuring Chakraborty.
“We are also aware that by extending safe working spaces and a collaborative environment to people like Utsav, we have contributed towards a toxic environment that can be scary and unsafe for women. And so we are sorry for any part we may have played in the tolerance or furthering of such behaviour,” AIB posted on Twitter, asserting that Chakraborty is no longer its member.
The Mumbai police tweeted to the first woman who had posted her experience, saying, “We have followed you. Request you to inbox your number. We will look into this on priority.”
Sometime last evening, Chakraborty stopped short of an apology as he wrote: “To be honest, from all accounts, I’ve been a piece of shit. 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.”
This morning, he was back to lashing out at his accusers, challenging them to prove their charges.
Stand-up comics Varun Grover and Aditi Mittal came out with their condemnation of Chakraborty and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja tweeted that it was “good on AIB” to issue a statement.
Comedienne Mallika Dua tweeted: “I feel sick and scared and angry and ashamed. Where the hell do men get this audacity from? Oh yes from society.”
The allegations against Chaturvedi have come in the middle of a raging debate in Bollywood after former actress Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of harassing her on the sets of a film in 2008.