A week after Mumbai-based comedy collective AIB cut all ties with writer-comedian Utsav Chakraborty following allegations of sexual harassment and drew sharp criticism for failing to take action despite complaints, AIB announced Monday that founding member and CEO Tanmay Bhat will be “stepping away” as his role in the controversy could not be “overlooked”.
Another founding member of AIB, Gursimran Khamba, who has also been accused of sexual misconduct has been asked to go on temporary leave and issued a separate statement denying “any violation of consent”.
In a statement titled “We’re sorry”, Bhat and AIB apologised for not cutting all ties with Chakraborty, though Bhat had confronted the comedian about the allegations, which had led to the victim being harassed further. “By harassment, we meant that Utsav called up the person, cried, apologised, putting her in an uncomfortable position,” AIB said.
— All India Bakchod (@AllIndiaBakchod) October 8, 2018
According to the statement by AIB HR head, Vidhi Jotwani, Bhat will not be involved in the day-to-day functioning of the company. “We have been closely monitoring the sequence of events on social media around the allegations against AIB and also against 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,” it stated. Bhat and Khamba did not respond to messages sent by The Indian Express.
The future of the group, Jotwani said, faces an uncertain future. “Truthfully, we don’t know what this means for the future of AIB or whether there is one. In the interim, Ashish Shakya, Rohan Joshi and other senior team members will work towards being able to answer that question over the next several months,” she said.
She added that it was everyone’s right to work in a safe environment and AIB hopes to “enable measures to establish our commitment to creating a gender-sensitive workspace. We are in the process of consulting various experts to ensure that our work culture incorporates sensitivity, inclusivity, respect and fairness”.
Last week, Chakraborty was accused of sexual harassment by a writer and fellow comic, who also said that AIB had not taken any action despite her telling them about it. Several women have made similar complaints against him since. On October 5, Chakraborty tweeted, “It’s a little too late now but I am sorry, I really am. I can’t think of myself as a victim anymore. Please tell me what to do now.”
AIB then also issued an apology for not taking action when the complaint was made two years ago and for continuing to collaborate with Chakraborty, despite being aware of the allegations.
Referring to the allegations against Khamba, Jotwani said: “…these allegations pertain to a private matter and he has released a statement of 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.”