Shiamak Davar sued for sexual harassment by two Canadian dancers

Two men based in Vancouver have filed civil claims against celebrity Bollywood choreographer Shiamak Davar, alleging that they had been sexual harassed and spiritually controlled by him.

The cases were filed before the British Columbia Supreme Court on Wednesday by 33-year-old Vancouver television cameraman, and a 40-year-old IT services provider, seeking damages from Davar. Davar, in his filings in the same court, has denied all the allegations. In counter filings, his lawyers stated that the allegations were “simply not true and have been made with the intention of ruining Mr Davar’s character, reputation and affiliated organisations” and the “false accusations” were also “solely to take advantage of Mr Davar’s celebrity.”

Both men had joined Davar’s dance troupe in India and later moved to Canada and were also part of a Vancouver-headquartered group, VRRP Spiritual Learning, that Davar is alleged to be the current leader of.

In his case, the IT professional claimed he had joined Davar’s dance classes while in his late teens. He alleged he had been chosen for the core company and after that, for “over a period of several months”, Davar began a “grooming process to manipulate” him “into sexual submission.” In 2003, after completing his Commerce degree in Mumbai, the IT professional was asked to go to Toronto to teach in Davar’s dance school. Subsequently, he was moved to Vancouver for the same purpose. The cameraman, meanwhile, claimed he joined the dance classes when he was 16.

Both were were initiated into VRRP Spiritual Learning, founded by Khorshed Bhavnagri, who claimed to receive spirit messages from her sons and that they were relaying instructions via auto-writing to her and her associates, including Davar. The accusers claim Davar succeeded Bhavnagri as leader of the group upon her death in 2007.

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After the IT professional moved to Vancouver, the suit alleges, Davar became more “controlling” than he had been in India, “using his position as a leader” of the spiritual group to “influence all aspects” of his life. That included breaking up his relationship with his girlfriend. He left the group in 2008, claiming that one “final sexual incident” had been the “last straw.”

The cameraman’s suit claims that Davar’s sexual advances began after he became a dance performer in the group. In his claim of sexual harassment, he alleges that Davar told him he “was selfish and his soul could not progress spiritually fast enough because he would not submit further” to him. Subsequently, he married his girlfriend and moved to Vancouver and was part of the VRRP group. After his marriage, the cameraman claimed he was “pressured” to have a child even as he was “starting to accept he was a gay man.” After Bhavnagri’s death, he assisted Davar in running VRRP. Between 2008 and 2010, sexual contact between the two increased. The complainant also alleged that Davar exercised “influence” over his girlfriend during the couple’s separation and divorce proceedings. In September 2010, the lawsuit stated, his responsibilities were “taken away”.

The cameraman alleged that as a result of Davar’s “sexual exploitation and/or sexual assaults”, he had ‘suffered psychological injury and damage.”

In an interview to Canadian public broadcaster CBC, which broke the story of the case, he alleged “He (Davar) was just publicly humiliating me…because I wasn’t giving him what he wanted…which was reciprocating to sexual acts.” He also stated he came forward as he wished to “protect his son from the potential ongoing danger of sexual abuse.”

In his response filed with the court, Davar’s lawyers said, “At all material times, Mr Davar performed his role as a teacher, employer and perceived spiritual advisor in a professional and appropriate manner” and that “at no time” did he “misuse or abuse his position in the dance company and/or perceived position in the spiritual group.” Davar’s dance school has operations in Canada and was also featured in the cultural programme that preceded the recent community reception for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Toronto, an event that also featured Canadian PM Stephen Harper.

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