Author Chetan Bhagat has written an open letter to his fans after another woman journalist accused him of sexual harassment in a WhatsApp conversation.
This was after Sanjana Chouhan from Mirror Now posted the screenshots of her conversation with Bhagat in her tweets. In the screenshots, tweeted by Sanjana, Bhagat is seen asking the woman journalist if she was a ‘very sexual’ person. His other questions included ‘do you like sex?’ and ‘What’s the wildest sexual thing you’ve done?’ (See screenshots below).
Responding to these allegations, Bhagat alleged that the woman journalist was trying to cash in on his fame by falsely accusing him of sexual harassment. Earlier, Bhagat had to issue an apology after a woman posted a screenshot of his WhatsApp conversation while trying to woo a girl.
You can read Bhagat’s full letter below. This was first posted on his Facebook page.
A letter to my fans, readers
Dear fans and readers,
Hi. I want you to know that I am suffering because my name is being dragged into needless controversies, and my family and I are being harassed. In the garb of the #MeToo movement, which definitely has genuine cases, I am being attacked and vilified. Let me tell you upfront – I am not a harasser. Never was, never will be.
A few days ago, a girl who had become friendly with me leaked some screenshots of what now almost everyone agrees was a flirtatious, but friendly and polite conversation. There was a background to it of course, which was omitted. Anyway, since I am married, it was seen as an attempted infidelity, and hence the right thing to do was to apologise, which I did instantly. To the person in question and to my wife. Beyond that, this was a personal matter. Legally too, there was nothing more to it, as anyone who has seen those chats would agree.
Despite this, my name was added to a growing list of people accused of the most heinous crimes, and flashed all over as a part of rape, sexual assault and all kinds of major criminal activity stories. A ‘responsible’ newspaper put my name on its front page as lead story – because you know, you need a famous guy to make a headline. All this because I had a flirtatious conversation with a girl who was conversing back with me.
I must say many people did understand the difference in the cases and conveyed it to me. However, it was not easy for my family – bearing up stoically and supporting me unconditionally –to answer inane queries from all and sundry. Please bear in mind that baseless allegations like these affect my wife, my 70-year-old mother, my elderly in-laws and my teenage twin sons. Each of them suffer in their own way.
The amount of suffering a false charge like this creates is immense. This is why we have courts, a legal system and corroboration of charges. Have we stopped believing in these?
Anyway, even when all this happened, I kept quiet. The movement, I understand, is leading to some positive change. Fine, suffer a bit if it is helping overall. I stopped promoting my new book, which I have worked on every day, for years. For the first time ever, I didn’t even thank my readers on the launch day, even though I am flooded with literally hundreds of messages daily across my social media congratulating me. As if I am some convict, I am supposed to shut the hell up lest the mob unleash its fury.
I could still live with all this. However, then things began to take an even weirder turn. It was now time for everyone who had a grudge against me (and, you know, plenty do on Twitter) to have a go at me. Kick a man when he is low, classy right?
Almost didn’t share this because I thought I’d taken care of it. But I was empowered to do this because of what’s happening right now and felt maybe it was pertinent to spread that feeling and help someone else speak up. Chetan Bhagat had it coming. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/tJrVr2rtWt
— Sanjana Chowhan (@Sanjanachowhan) October 9, 2018
He thought it was okay to ask me all this because I am an erotica writer. Also note his gaslighting attempt at an apology. Ladies, this is not okay. None of this is okay. No matter what it can or cannot do for your career. Your peace of mind comes 1st (2/2) pic.twitter.com/GCTvsMD8eg
— Sanjana Chowhan (@Sanjanachowhan) October 9, 2018
So, here’s an example of what also took place. And no, I am not kidding. This really happened. And since I am going through this situation right now, you need to read this to understand what’s happening.
The “Erotica” Writer
A couple of years ago, a person who described herself as an “erotica” writer met me as part of some shoot. She sent me a story first (and I have it in my email, anybody curious can get it checked.) Here’s a sample of what was in that story. Again, this is not me writing. These are her lines she sent to me first. (Dear Facebook, don’t remove this – I am making a point here).
‘You need to be shown your place,’ he says, as he unzips and presses his erection against the back of her ass. She pushes herself away from the drawers, readying herself to be taken as Dev makes his way to her moist vagina with his hard cock.
Or let’s take sample two:
He reaches for her breasts, squeezing them hard as he thrusts himself inside of her. Roshni yelps as she feels his penis snake inside her body, every thrust giving her life.
She opens her eyes in disbelief and turns around to see Dev holding his flaccid penis, with semen running down his bronze, well-toned legs.
I will let you be the judge of the content on whether it is “erotica” or something else. This is the first written communication the lady ever had with me. She also wanted me to consider co-writing a story (and literally hundreds of writers have come up to me with that idea.) And I wasn’t interested.
However, I had never met a person like her before: a female writer of sex/ porn/ erotica (as an aside, from what I understand, if it is meant to turn you on and is extremely explicit, it is porn, not erotica) was someone I had never met. And since I am a writer and I research people and human nature, I wanted to ask her some questions. Also, at that time, 50 Shades of Grey was a rage, so I wanted to know what drives people to write and read all this. These were questions I could have asked a writer like her anywhere – like for instance at a panel at a literature fest.
Anyway, so we had a chat, an amiable chat. I was not interested in her in any other way other than as a research subject. She was happy to answer the questions. And that was that.
Cut to many years later – guess what? Chetan’s name is being dragged through mud, let me join the party – and she puts out those screenshots. Her buddies high-five her, without knowing any context, and she becomes a victim too! This really has happened. I am not going to give her publicity but you can find the screenshots. She is obviously being trolled a lot for them, as people have now finally realized what is real #MeToo and what is #FakeMeToo. Unfortunately in India no matter what or how noble the cause, it always ends up being corrupted.
I meet a lot of people. However, I never have or ever will harass anyone. The writer you love and read may not be a perfect person (never said I was), but I am not a harasser. I need you to know that and believe that. I also want to tell you this: given the nature of my job and how busy I am, I can’t help everyone who comes to me. Hence, I piss off a lot of people too. I often have to decline requests like: co-writing a story, writing the foreword for a book, attending book launches, tweeting about someone’s book, coming on a TV show, giving someone an interview, introducing someone to someone else, helping them get political or Bollywood access, mentoring them to be a writer, reading/, editing/ writing their manuscript, coming for their office event, coming to their party, promoting their event, write a column to match their political view, becoming their friend or mentor – the list goes on and on. My office staff will tell you, every day we are flooded with such requests. I can’t do them all, and while most understand and take it well, some don’t. And since I have been working as a writer for over a decade, that some may literally become hundreds of people.
Yes, I might have pissed off a lot of people. Some of those people are women. However, pissing someone off is not harassing them. And trying to bring me down in public by hiding behind a genuine movement, and the fact that one doesn’t question a woman doesn’t make you right. The screenshots she has posted are of a private conversation she took part in. She has done so to malign and harass me and put me in a category. As any lawyer will tell you, that is a crime. Talking to someone isn’t.
I would hence, like to officially put a stop to this nonsense targeting me. I am no harasser, and I need to work on issues in my personal life that are not anybody’s business. From now on, Ms. Erotica-Writer or anybody else, I would not be responding to any such posts. The courts of the country are available to you; please go there if you have a case (PS: you don’t).
I am also going to stop feeling ashamed, and am going to start talking about my new book, which is a labor of love and is getting rave reviews from readers all over the country. Please don’t try to ride on my fame, spoil my moment and definitely, definitely do not hurt or harass my family.
The #MeToo movement has its good parts and has some good people with genuine grievances. I am with them. However, the movement is already getting corrupted and genuine survivors will suffer if people don’t take it seriously. In the US, each revelation follows months of investigation and research. It isn’t just a DM posted. Or a years’ old screenshot (which can easily be doctored as WhatsApp allows you to delete your own chats, making it seem the other side was doing all the talking). The reason for this is not just a higher standard of journalism over there, but also strong defamation laws that can bring a publisher of wrong or malafide information down. That’s missing in India, so the chances of the movement being abused are higher in India.
I am going to move on from this and ignore the noise. I genuinely want to thank those who stood by me and said what I did is not a #MeToo incident. Thank you. Takes a lot to stand up for a man who is being slandered, and many journalists (female ones as well), readers and fans still did. From me and Anusha both – Thank you!
Happy Navratri, may the Goddess’ blessings be with you.