At least three women on Tuesday publicly accused acclaimed artist and sculptor Jatin Das of misconduct and sexual harassment in the past. One of the women said Das tried to grab and kiss her in 2004. Another woman complained of a similar incident from 2013. Both incidents reportedly took place in his New Delhi studio in Shahpur Jat. A third woman said over the three days she spent working with Das as an assistant in his home, he would “unnecessarily touch her”, making her feel so uncomfortable she left the job.
Das described the allegations as “vulgar” and denied having met the women.
In an account posted on her Twitter page, Mumbai-based conservationist Nisha Bora said she assisted Das in organising his work material for a few days in the summer of 2004. On the second day at his studio, Das “attempted to grab” her and “managed a clumsy kiss” on her lips on the second attempt, she said. “What I recall clearly was his disbelief that I was pushing back,” wrote Bora. “I picked up my bag, stepped out into the sun, and ran home. Never to speak about it. Until now.”
Bora said she was prompted to share her story after she came across an Instagram post also accusing Das of sexual harassment, reported The Indian Express. The post was shared on Monday on an anonymous account, Scene And Herd, which has been sharing stories of abuse from within the art world.
“Earlier, when I talked about it with a few senior female artists, I was told that this was par for the course. They brushed it off, saying they have all dealt with this,” Bora told The Indian Express. “But when I saw there was one person who had put out her own account of her encounter with him [Das], I knew I didn’t want it to die without a whimper. I wanted to share my story.”
The woman who wrote the Instagram post anonymously said she had assisted Das in his work in 2013 just as she was starting her career. “I was asked the same night to change to my night clothes and come to his bedroom. I was in shock and locked myself in my room,” she said. “I left the very next morning. I have not heard anything from him after.”
Later, Garusha Katoch also wrote about Das’ allegedly inappropriate behaviour during her time as an intern at the Jatin Das Centre of Art. The office had five or six interns and Das tried to “alienate” her from the others, claimed Katoch.
Das complimented Katoch on her feet and gave her a pair of socks, she said. When she did not put them on, “he then made me sit down and grabbed the socks and proceeded to put them on my feet”, wrote Katoch. “I had never felt so disgusted before.”
Das also told her to live in a spare room in his house in Asiad Village. When he offered to drop her home from the studio, he allegedly took Katoch to his house on the pretext of showing her the spare room and tried to tightly hug and kiss her.
Both women said they stopped associating with Das and his work soon after the incidents.
A third woman, Malavika Kundu, said she was 18 when worked as an assistant at Das’s home in 1999 or 2000, helping him catalogue his collection of books. Das called her “baby”, despite her asking him not to. “He would unnecessarily touch me, for example, by running his hand down my back, or he would come over and stand too close,” she wrote in an account shared on Twitter. The final straw, she said, came when he asked her to be more receptive to him. “Specifically, he said I should think of myself as a matki and allow him ‘plant his seed in it.’”
Das denied having met the women. “I do not know who they are,” he told Scroll.in. “It’s so painful and vulgar. Anyone can say anything about anybody and it gets published...There might be truth to both sides but it’s the innocent which loses dignity. One has worked and slogged all their life with truth.”
Since October 5, dozens of women, including journalists, have taken to social media to give detailed accounts of the sexual harassment and misconduct they have faced. The campaign, dubbed the #MeToo movement in India, has sent tremors through industries such as film, music and the media. Some of the men accused of sexual misconduct are Union minister MJ Akbar, former Hindustan Times political editor Prashant Jha, actor Alok Nath, directors Vikas Bahl, Subhash Ghai and Sajid Khan, senior The Times of India editors KR Sreenivas and Satadru Ojha, author Kiran Nagarkar, and multiple men affiliated currently or previously with comedy group All India Bakchod.