Dhrupad Sansthan in sexual misconduct row; Akhilesh Gundecha steps down amid harassment allegations

·3-min read

Months after the death of its leading proponent, Ramakant Gundecha €" one half of the vocalist duo known as the 'Gundecha Brothers', along with his older sibling Umakant €" Dhrupad Sansthan, the residential Bhopal music institute they made famous, is embroiled in a controversy.

Amid allegations of sexual misconduct, aired on social media this week, the third Gundecha brother, Akhilesh, a noted pakhawaj artiste, stepped down from his position at the Dhrupad Sansthan. The institution told Firstpost that an internal committee is investigating the charges made.

The misconduct allegations were shared on Facebook by an Amsterdam-based yoga teacher who said she had been learning music at Dhrupad Sansthan. Firstpost is not identifying the woman or quoting from her Facebook post as she had not yet provided permission to do so, or responded to our request for comment, at the time of publishing this report.

In her Facebook post the woman notes that she is not speaking alone, but along with several other students of the Dhrupad Sansthan, who have reportedly faced varying degrees of "physical, psychological and sexual abuse".

Also read €" TM Krishna on #MeToo in Indian classical arts: Halo around artists has given them licence to abuse

The post contains wide-ranging allegations of harassment against both Akhilesh and the late Ramakant Gundecha, and that the traditions of the guru-shishya parampara were subverted to create a culture where the students lived in fear of reprisals unless they acceded to demands for sexual favours and kept silent. According to the statement posted on Facebook, the misconduct occurred over a span of several years, and ended with a demand for the dismissal of Akhilesh Gundecha from all internal and external functions related to the Dhrupad Sansthan.

A statement shared with Firstpost by Umakant Gundecha on behalf of the Dhrupad Sansthan read:

"In light of the allegations levelled against him, without dwelling into the merits of these allegations, Akhilesh Gundecha has voluntarily withdrawn himself from all the activities of Dhrupad Sansthan.

Dhrupad Sansthan has instituted an internal committee for redressal and prohibition of all the issues on sexual harassment, w.e.f. 3 September 2020. The committee shall look into the complaints brought into their notice and strive to deliver justice."

A copy of the statement can be accessed here €"

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This isn't the first allegation of sexual harassment against a leading figure in Indian classical music. Over October and November 2018, as the second wave of the #MeToo movement swept through social media timelines, several prominent musicians were accused of misconduct. The Madras Music Academy, the premier sabha in Chennai, dropped seven artistes from its prestigious December festival as a response to #MeToo allegations against them.

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