It’s a natural tragedy when a talented figure dies. They leave the world poorer, with less to go on. But it’s especially tragic when someone else is at fault.
Earlier this month, Mumbai-based Gujarati sculptor and artist Hema Upadhyay was found dead. So far, there’s been a prime suspect, her ex-husband has been implicated, and the exact events of December 11 still remain a mystery – but we do seem to be much closer to the truth.
Who Was Hema Upadhyay?
According to her profile on Saffron Art, Hema Upadhyay was born in Baroda, Gujarat in 1972 as Hema Hirani. She met her husband Chintan Upadhyay in 1992 and began becoming an active photographer and sculptor after the two married in 1998 and settled into Mumbai, by which time she had her Masters in Fine Arts. According to the art gallery’s website, she had her first exhibition at the Chemould Gallery in 2001, and another at Artspace, in Sydney and Brisbane, Australia. Her first works tackled migration and military aggression through sculpted images, mixed print media and collages.
Her works were featured in art galleries and museums around the world: in Beijing, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Milan, and Jerusalem among others. She continued to make art, although things got messy when she filed for a divorce in 2010 against her husband, Chintan. The two were divorced in 2014, and Chintan moved to Delhi – but not before causing a ruckus after sketching obscene art on the walls of his bedroom, which prompted Hema to file a harassment suit, which failed.
The Initial Facts and Speculations
The bodies of Hema, and her lawyer, Harish Bhambani, who helped her work the case against her husband and file the harassment suit, were found a day after their death, packed in boxes and disposed in the Kandivali suburbs, in Mumbai.
Arrested so far have been Hema’s husband and four other men, who were relatives employed by Vidyadhar Rajbhar, whom the men alleged Hema owed money. The men confessed to being accomplices, and that Rajbhar, who sold Hema’s art fabrication work and was still at large, was the mastermind behind the killings. Chintan’s involvement is still not clear.
There may be a strong link between Chintan and Rajbhar – their families were allegedly close, and Chintan allegedly financed the treatment of Rajbhar’s father when he fell ill. Hema’s family insists that she owed no money, and that Chintan must be involved in her murder.
According to reports on the Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, the accomplices of alleged prime suspect Vidyadhar Rajbhar, the original ploy was to scare Hema with a chemical-soaked napkin after luring her to Rajbhar’s warehouse under the premise that he had information that would help in the divorce against her husband, against whom she was fighting in a property suit and for alimony.
Apparently intrigued, Hema brought her lawyer along, who was tied up and restrained after the group had applied the napkin to Hema’s face – upon realizing that she had died from the chemical, they decided to kill Bhambani to rid themselves of a witness.
Whether or not the Rajbhar’s told the truth is still up to the law and the facts to decide – but as of now, the manhunt for Vidyadhar continues.
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