Mumbai’s contemporary art gallery Tarq on Thursday closed photographer Shahid Datawala’s show Datura after a woman accused him of sexual misconduct. Amaaya Dasgupta alleged that Datawala molested her on two occasions in 2016 when she visited Mumbai as a 19-year-old and stayed with him, reported Mumbai Mirror.
Hena Kapadia, who runs the gallery, confirmed to Scroll.in that Tarq had closed Datawala’s exhibition with immediate effect. “Following the opening of the solo exhibition titled Datura, by Shahid Datawala at Tarq, there has been an allegation of misconduct against the artist as part of the #MeToo movement,” her statement said. “Tarq was not aware of this allegation before the opening of the exhibition. Everyone at Tarq fully supports the movement and stands in solidarity with survivors.”
On one of the visits, Amaaya Dasgupta spoke to Datawala about an earlier instance of sexual assault by someone else, she said. At a house party afterwards when she asked the 44-year-old Datawala if he wanted another drink, he “pulled me towards him and started biting my shoulder, making his way to my neck”.
Dasgupta said he did not stop despite her protests. “I managed to finally escape his grip and said nothing of it then,” she said. After confronting him the next morning, he claimed to not remember the incident and apologised profusely, which she accepted.
Datawala then harassed her again that evening. He grabbed her hand and “forcefully put my fingers in his mouth and started sucking on them,” said Amaaya Dasgupta. “I yelled at him and managed to yank my hand away.”
Dasgupta said that she then ended all communication with him. “I cut him out of my life for about a year, and let him back in shortly after, thinking I’d be able to forgive him,” she said. “But I could not. I have not.” She added that after her father photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta’s death in 2012, Datawala began to refer to her as his goddaughter.
Datawala, in a public apology, said he was “devastated” by the allegations. In a Facebook post, he described the first incident as a “lapse in judgement” and said he had tried to “playfully bite and lick Amaaya’s arm”. Datawala said that he immediately apologised after the woman made her discomfort known.
“For the two years since, I have continued to apologise and as I understood it, she had accepted my apology in principle, while we continued to talk about it,” he said.
Amaaya Dasgupta lauded Tarq for closing the exhibition. “Organisations ought not to be silent and passive when information like this comes to light – doing so not only makes them complicit, but they are also then endorsing these people,” she said. “To publicly cut ties with them and show active support towards the movement is vital.”
#MeToo in India
Since October 5, dozens of women, including actors and journalists, have taken to social media to give detailed accounts of the sexual harassment and misconduct they have faced. It started with actor Tanushree Dutta alleging that colleague Nana Patekar had intimidated and harassed her on the sets of the 2009 film Horn ‘Ok’ Pleassss. Other Bollywood personalities accused of harassment include directors Vikas Bahl, Subhash Ghai, Sajid Khan and Anu Malik.
On Tuesday, at least two women publicly accused acclaimed artist and sculptor Jatin Das of misconduct and sexual harassment in the past.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader MJ Akbar resigned as Union minister on Wednesday after journalist Priya Ramani and at least 15 other women accused him of sexual harassment.