New Delhi: After journalist-turned politician M.J Akbar and several journalists resigned because of allegations of sexual harassment, the Indian media’s #MeToo movement has scored another victory. Artist Riyas Komu has stepped down from all management positions connected to the Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB) after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him.
In a statement released on Friday, the Kochi Biennale Foundation stated that a committee would be constituted to “inquire into this matter”. This year’s edition of the biennale is scheduled to take place from December 12.
“Though the Foundation has received no formal complaint, we are collectively committed to ensuring zero tolerance to any harassment or misconduct. Riyas Komu has stepped down from all his management positions connected to the Biennale till the matter is resolved,” it said.
The initial allegation published anonymously via an Instagram account ‘Scene and Herd’ did not name Komu, but accused a member of the “core team” of the Biennale of “grabbing and kissing” the survivor. She later chose to name the perpetrator.
Following the revelation of Komu’s identity, she shared another incident where the artist accompanied her to her room uninvited, pushed her against the wall and kissed her.
“He began kissing me and feeling me up while I struggled to even process what the hell was going on. I was so petrified that I just let it happen. It stopped just as abruptly as it had started. And then he left. It didn’t stop here. I was violated again by him during my stay in Kochi,” she wrote.
Komu, who is the secretary and co-founder of the Biennale, on Thursday took to Instagram to express his disappointment at the incident being “understood and presented in this manner”.
“As an artist who is committed to social and political causes, I support the #MeToo movement that has disrupted the prevailing structures of authority and created ways for representing previously suppressed voices.
“I’m deeply upset that this incident has been understood and presented in this manner. However, as the person has expressed hurt, I would like here to offer my apologies and I am opening myself to the possibility of a conversation,” he posted on Instagram.
Stating that she was afraid to speak up earlier, the woman added, “I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what had happened because I was worried that he would destroy my career…”
Bose Krishnamachari, president and co-founder of KMB, had told Indian Express on Friday that a statement would be issued about Komu after a meeting. KMB adviser Tasneem Zakaria Mehta that she the allegations would be looked into. “There is a male power play that happens… It is so difficult for women to come out and make these statements, so when they do there needs to be a certain credence given to it,” she told Indian Express.
(With PTI inputs)