Alleging that false complaints of sexual harassment are filed against officials trying to fight corruption in Lalit Kala Akademi, the institution’s chairman, Uttam Pacharne, on Monday said there are four cases against him but he has “never looked back”.
Speaking at the inauguration of JJ School of Art annual exhibition, Pacharne, a noted sculptor, said, “The institution (Lalit Kala Akademi) was weary, their programmes had stopped, there was corruption, and some motivated persons were determined to ensure that some officials do not continue in their position. At a time like this, the Akademi chose me.”
He said, “My experience has been so unpleasant. A quotation is raised for Rs 8 lakh and bills are submitted for Rs 80 lakh. What must the chairman do? Matters are landing in court, we have held back payments and referred the matter to the ministry. You will be shocked to know if an official starts working honestly there, then a woman makes some noise…. (The ‘victim’ alleges) he held my hand, (then) goes to the press, maligns him, and he is thrown out. This is how these people play games…. There are four cases against Uttam Pacharne but I have never looked back.”
Pacharne was appointed chair of the prestigious institution in May 2018. In one of his first decisions, he suspended an Akademi employee after an artist made a complaint of sexual harassment against him. At the time, he had said the decision would send out the message that the Akademi will not tolerate such behaviour.
At the event, litterateur Laxmikant Deshmukh, who headed last year’s edition of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in Vadodara, spoke about the freedom to express dissent, hinting at the recent controversies around withdrawal of invitation to Nayantara Sehgal by the Sammelan this year, and interruption of Amol Palekar’s speech at the NGMA earlier this month.
“Abhivyakti ke liye khatra uthana hi padega (risks will have to be taken for protection of freedom of expression),” he said.
“Freedom of expression lies in the soul of an artist, and there should be no hesitation by an artist in showing courage. Expressing one’s views in today’s times is difficult, but this is also the best time for an artist to make his contribution, as the life of a common man is becoming tough.”