Just days after a private Instagram group 'Bois Locker Room' consisting a bunch of Delhi's schoolgoing kids was exposed for misusing photos of minor girls and propagating rape culture and casual sexism, a similar incident came to light in Kolkata.
It all began when a Twitter user named Aiyoobrows accused some men in Kolkata of "using semi-nude and nude pictures of women in a Google drive and circulating it among their friends." The tweet said that these men had been involved in activities quite similar to that of the notorious Instagram group, 'Bois Locker Room'. According to the tweets, the drive, which had photos of women stored without their consent, had been used to threaten victims in the past.
The series of tweets mentioned that the idea of this particular Google drive was started by a student of Kolkata's prominent educational institution, Jadavpur University (JU)-- let's call him S. He had allegedly given access to the photos to a few of his friends, students of the same university.
Soon after the tweet went viral, several women wrote about their encounters with two former students of Jadavpur University (JU). S was one of them. The other student they called out was S's friend-- let's call him K, who was a student at JU’s economics department then. The women wrote that the Google drive had been an 'open secret' in JU, albeit, no one really had evidence to implicate the men previously. According to sources, the drive was started sometime around 2016, although the exact date remains unknown.
In the tweets, Manasi*, who uses the Twitter name Aiyoobrows, mentioned that there was a Google Drive with photos of her. She said she found out about them recently.Speaking to News18, Manasi said that she had exchanged an intimate picture of herself with S, in 2015 while texting him. She felt during the course of the conversation that she was manipulated into sending the picture. Before the exchange, S and Manasi were friends, was part of the same debating club at the university together. While Manasi had consensually sent the photo, she had hoped that it would be deleted, or at least, kept private.
Manasi said that she did not entirely feel comfortable after her exchange with S, and decided to stop attending debating society meetings. Gradually, she cut off contact with S as well.
"I never told anyone about the picture I'd sent or that exchange. Then, almost two years later, someone mentioned that they had seen it," she told News18. "In 2018, a classmate of mine posted her #MeToo story when I offered my solidarity to her. I mentioned that there are toxic men everywhere. During the course of the conversation, she said that she knew about the photograph. I was shocked. I had literally told nobody about it in college."
Manasi then found out that S had still kept her photograph. "Multiple people had seen it. She told me the debating society and the MUN committees knew about the existence of a 'drive' which was an "open secret." Classmates of mine had seen my picture through K, another classmate of mine," she said.
This is when she found out her photograph was circulated without her consent. "My classmates had seen my picture and they didn't think it was important enough to tell me," she said.
Another woman claimed that S showed her the particular Google drive himself. Mrittika* said that she remembers him "flaunting" the drive to other students.
On one particular day, she said that S was boasting about his "conquests" as he tried to show the group the drive consisting of women's photos. Here, "conquests" refers to the multiple women that this former JU student had encounters with and photos that he had kept. "We were disgusted and made it clear that we were not interested to see the drive. I was in the first year back then and did not really have the courage to oppose him. We were dumbfounded, and I chose to ignore it back then," Mrittika said.
Chandrika*, a junior of S, also from the same university, had a similar encounter and it was only much later when she found out about the drive. In 2016, when she had been a first-year student in the Department of International Relations, she had met S through the college debating society and Model United Nations (MUN).
"One afternoon, I was hanging out with him and we had had a few drinks. He tried to get sexual, but I stopped him. At night, he texted me again. Soon, one thing led to another and I had sent him a photo of my bare back. Later, his then-girlfriend found out about it and confronted me. But what was shocking is, very soon, the whole university had found out about it," Chandrika said.
She also said that she wouldn't be surprised if her photos are also present in the drive, the existence of which she had only heard about in passing. "He keeps the photos as trophies of his conquests. The fact that everyone in college suddenly knew about my involvement with him was not bothering me as much as the fact that a private conversation, a photo meant to be between the two of us only, had been circulated and had been made public," she added.
The fact that the drive existed did turn out to be an "open secret." While most students had heard rumors that such a drive existed, the degree of rumors varied - the simplest ones talked about a collection of what S called 'conquests' in a public statement, along with people who have mentioned that they've seen, or heard about the drive.A student who went to JU in the same years as S told News18 that the version of the rumour that reached her was, "S's friend K had access to the drive, and he went around showing it to people. I had also heard that S deleted this drive. I was shocked but relieved that maybe, after all, it has been deleted," she said. News18 reached out to S on the allegations of the drive, and while he has confirmed the existence of the drive, he said that it was private and not shared with anyone. "I wanted to back everything that was on my phone, up to a cloud platform, especially since I have an unfortunate habit of losing my phones. This included my official documents, lab assignments, PDFs, and a host of other things," S told News18.
"I am convinced that no one else was privy to the contents of my drive, I also am surprised at how a third party could have shown photos that were allegedly on my drive," he added.
S had enrolled in the Electrical Engineering department of Jadavpur University in 2014 and was part of the debating society in college. After graduating from JU in 2018, S has subsequently moved out of the city.News18 has also reached out to Internal Complaints Committee at JU to know if formal complaints had ever been lodged against S.
Another tweet posted by Aiyoobrows also reveals that K, S's friend, had shown the photos in the drive to his friends at NUJS (National Institute of Juridical Sciences). In the tweet, she has posted a couple of WhatsApp screenshots, which narrate the account of one of A's friends. The identity of the person in question has been kept anonymous.
According to the screenshots, A wanted to show something "interesting" to his friends and much to their shock showed them a nude photo of a woman whose face could not be seen. On being asked, A revealed the woman's identity as well. When the people present objected, he blamed S for the drive, called him "mad" and dismissed the issue.
Yesterday I tweeted about Imankalyan Ghosh showing pictures from the Gdrive to someone from NUJS. I'd like to clarify that the person in question was not in any way involved in this. He is merely a witness, and here's his testimony of what transpired between Iman and him. pic.twitter.com/f9xLmqj14N — Aiyoobrows (@Bratmatcat) May 5, 2020
In a public statement on Tuesday, which has now been removed, K wrote about his realisations. We, however, still have a copy of the statement he had posted.
"I have realized that I have never questioned him (S*) regarding this, although I knew what was happening was wrong. It was probably my softness towards him that I did not do anything about it," he wrote.
"On thinking deeper, I also realize that I was insensitive about this and I feel really devastated and sorry on imagining the trauma the complainants have felt. Hearing such activities from other people is also very traumatic to say the least, and I am deeply sorry for not acting on it personally."
However, in the statement, K does not admit to having accessed the drive or showing the photos to his other friends.
One thing is for sure, the drive does exist, as several women have claimed and as S himself admits. The 'secret' was known to many within the JU circuit. Almost everyone associated with those involved in the row had heard rumours about the drive at one point or the other, but no one had spoken up about it. Some were scared for their own safety and that of their friends, while some did not want to point fingers without tangible evidence.
A 'Bois locker room' row in the capital city finally broke the silence of these women in Kolkata.*Names of the women have been changed to protect the identities.