#MeToo allegations: Tanmay Bhat out of AIB, Gursimran Khamba sent on leave

Oct 09, 2018, 17:36 IST | A Correspondent

Country's leading comedy collective acts on sexual harassment allegations; Hotstar cancels the show On Air With AIB

#MeToo allegations: Tanmay Bhat out of AIB, Gursimran Khamba sent on leave
AIB faces uncertainty after Tanmay Bhat quits the group, while Gursimran Khamba has been asked to go on leave

Tanmay Bhat, co-founder of the extremely popular stand-up comedy group AIB, has decided to step away from it, even as co-founder Gursimran Khamba has been sent on leave on Monday amid allegations of sexual harassment against them.

While Khamba has been directly accused of sexual misconduct, Bhat has come under attack for both his inaction on the complaints against writer-comedian Utsav Chakraborty and for allegedly sending inappropriate messages to women.

Hotstar cancels AIB show
Meanwhile, in wake of the recent developments, digital entertainment platform Hotstar announced its decision on Monday to cancel production of the group's online show 'On Air with AIB'.

For Women, By Women

Sending nude pictures
Allegations against Chakraborty surfaced last week with multiple women accusing him of sending them unsolicited nude pictures. "Tanmay Bhat received specific, detailed allegations about him [Utsav] in a private and personal conversation. Tanmay confronted Utsav in a personal capacity — which led to Utsav calling up the victim, leading to further harassment," AIB had said in an earlier statement. Bhat had tweeted his apology earlier. "I've let a lot of people down recently. I'm sorry. I messed up," he wrote.

AIB statement
A statement by the head of Human Resources, AIB, Vidhi Jotwani, on Monday about Bhat and Khamba, said, "We have been closely monitoring the sequence of events on social media around the allegations against AIB and also our co-founder and CEO, Tanmay Bhat. We cannot overlook Tanmay's role and in light of this, he will be stepping away from his association with AIB until further notice. This implies that Tanmay will not be involved in the day-to-day functioning of AIB or in any other manner. We have also just been appraised of the allegations against Gursimran Khamba on social media. At this point in time, these allegations pertain to a private matter and he has released a statement on his own about the same. However, as an organisation, we believe that it would be prudent to place Gursimran Khamba on a temporary leave of absence until we have more clarity on the matter."

Allegations against Khamba
A woman, who requested anonymity, had posted her statement alleging harassment by Khamba through the Twitter handle of a journalist. She said she and the comedian had "hooked up two-three times, consensually and continued being friends" but things escalated when on two separate occasions, Khamba tried "repeatedly to make out with me while we were hanging out".

"He lay down on top of me on the couch, I had to physically shove him away, turn my face or push his. He would then stop. And we would hang out, ignoring the entire thing. I continued being friends with him." The woman said the comic later realised he had feelings for her but by that time she was already in a relationship.

"This led to drunk calls, threat to ruin friendships, emotional blackmail and (emotional) abuse that went on for five months. In 2016, in Delhi, when we hung out, he wanted to come over, I said no. He said he didn't want to do anything, just spend time with me. I don't disbelieve this. But I said no. This was followed by him being angry and nasty and abusive.

'Never violated her consent'
Khamba acknowledged misbehaving on being rejected but said he never violated her consent. "It is true that I developed feelings for her while she was dating someone else. During that time given our friendship and history I felt rejected and was angry and did not behave appropriately at all. It had become a toxic relationship and I'd like to apologise unconditionally for it like I had done in the past," Khamba said. He said the woman reached out to him and they tried being friends again, but he was already in a relationship with his now wife. "I'm sorry for my bad behaviour and all the hurt it caused her but I categorically deny any violation of consent," he added.

A journalist has accused actor-director Rajat Kapoor of 'lewd' behaviour
A journalist has accused actor-director Rajat Kapoor of 'lewd' behaviour

Actor Rajat Kapoor, too
After a woman journalist had accused actor-director Rajat Kapoor of "lewd" and unprofessional behaviour, Kapoor took to Twitter to apologise, saying he has tried to be a decent man all his life.

Sr HT editor steps down
In the media space, leading national daily Hindustan Times announced that its political editor Prashant Jha had stepped down. Jha had been accused of sexual harassment by a young lawyer who worked in the organisation.

'Matter should be probed fairly'
Photographer Pablo Bartholomew responds to mid-day's report on October 6:

I am responding late to the post on Twitter by Deepanjana Pal of 05 October 2018 written anonymously by her friend alleging that I had harassed her over the phone after she interviewed me, and that I had subsequently spoken to her editor derisively about what she had written. I am not on Twitter and had no access to the post until it appeared in the media.

With no other context, timeline and explanation beyond the account of the anonymous person's story, it makes it quite worrisome that anyone can name and be anonymous, with lack of answerability or fact. With no facts presented, I am at loss to address or respond to the stated accusation.

I hereby record that I am committed to Gender Equality. If I unintentionally and/or inadvertently made the concerned individual feel uncomfortable, I would like to be offered the opportunity to explain myself instead of carrying forward this charade of naming and shaming.

My intentions have never been to harass anyone. But, if I have come across as such, then the matter should be probed fairly, and I shall give it my full co-operation, or, this should be resolved through a comprehensive dialogue where I, too, am given the chance to put forth my version.

Also Read: #MeToo storm gathers force: more biggies fall by the wayside

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