The makers of Made in Heaven’s new season have refuted allegations made by Dalit writer Yashica Dutt that one of the show’s episodes lifts aspects from her life. In a series of social media posts on August 14, Dutt alleged that she had not been credited as the inspiration for the character played by Radhika Apte.

The show’s writers – Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti and Alankrita Shrivastava – and the episode director Neeraj Ghaywan (who is Dalit himself) refuted the charges on Thursday. “We categorically deny any claim that Ms. Dutt’s life or work was appropriated by us,” they said in a statement.

In the episode, Apte plays Pallavi Menke, an Ambedkarite academic at Columbia University. Menke’s decision to have a Buddhist wedding ceremony exposes the caste prejudices of her prospective in-laws. Before the nuptials, Pallavi speaks at a public gathering about reclaiming her original surname instead of the caste-neutral one she has been using for years, her grandmother’s job as a toilet cleaner, and the importance of “coming out” – the phrase used to explain the public declaration of Dalit identity by community members.

Dutt alleged on that Menke’s experiences reflect her own. In 2019, Dutt published to wide acclaim her memoir Coming Out as Dalit, in which she wrote at length about “passing” as an upper-caste person throughout her childhood and adolescence to avoid the stigma attached to her community. The memoir was “primarily an act of bearing witness to what it means to be Dalit in a grossly unfair society”, Dutt wrote.

In her social media posts, Dutt stated: “It was surreal to see a version of my life on screen that wasn’t me but yet was still me. But soon the heartbreak set in. They were my words but my name was nowhere. What could have been a celebration of our collective ideas was tinged with sadness. The ideas I cultivated, that are my life’s work, that I continue to receive immense hate still for just speaking, were taken without permission or credit.”

After the episode went online, Ghaywan in an Instagram post thanked several thinkers and writers, including Dutt. Ghaywan lauded Dutt for making the phrase “coming out” a “part of the popular culture lexicon for owning one’s own Dalit identity”.

On Thursday, co-creator Reema Kagti wrote on her X and Instagram handles, ‘“Coming out’ is a 1950’s academic LGBTQIA term that was first used by Sumit Baudh in the Indian caste identity context in 2007. He used this in an article he wrote for Tarshi [a non-governmental organisation working on issues of sexuality]. A decade later it was used by Ms Dutt in her book. This term has since become common parlance for reclaiming caste identity.”

In the episode, Menke mentions a book titled Denied, which Kagti said was a “hat-tip” to other books about the Dalit experience, including Dutt’s Coming Out As Dalit, Sujata Gidla’s Ants Among Elephants, Suraj Yengde’s Caste Matters and Sumit Baudh’s article in Tarshi.

Menke’s reference to her grandmother is “a common history that came up recurrently in our research on the community”, the statement added.

It concluded: “We will continue to platform stories and voices that are truly bigger than us.”