Chetan Bhagat, India’s most popular pulp fiction writer, today sought to put his foot down on allegations that he sexually harassed people on WhatsApp.
His response comes in the wake of yet a new allegation, four days after a woman leaked a conversation with him in which he confessed to ‘trying to woo’ her.
In today’s allegation posted on Twitter, a Mumbai-based journalist and erotica writer said he asked her uncomfortable questions on WhatsApp.
“Chetan Bhagat had it coming,” she said. “He thought it was okay to ask me all this because I am an erotica writer.”
In the screenshots posted by the woman on Twitter, the two can be seen discussing her work, with Chetan Bhagat trying to find out what made her start writing erotica.
“What drew u to this? Are u a v sexual person,” he asks, to which the woman explain the circumstances under which she wrote the novel.
Bhagat then goes on to ask whether the novels contain her latent fantasies and whether she ‘liked sex’.
In his response on the matter, Bhagat says his probing questions were not meant to make her uncomfortable, but for him to get an insight into the motivation behind the novel.
“I had never met a person like her before: a female writer of sex/ porn/ erotica.. since I am a writer and I research people and human nature, I wanted to ask her some questions,” he said.
“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.”
He said the chat was ‘amiable’.
“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.”
Bhagat also sought to put the record straight on the first incident, in which he could be seen trying to ‘woo’ a girl on WhatsApp.
He denied that it was sexual harassment, and said it 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,” he added.
Bhagat also addressed the broader point of the MeToo movement, started in the US with the aim of alleviating the shame and reluctance felt by victims of sexual harassment, getting ‘corrupted’ in India.
“..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..”
“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?”
He said he remained silent because he could see positive change and genuine cases of sexual harassment also getting exposed.
“However, then things began to take an even weirder turn. It was now time for everyone who had a grudge against me to have a go at me.”
His full response can be read on Facebook.