A majority of the members on Kalakshetra's governing board want Leela Samson re-appointed as director.
The Kalakshetra website, in addition to naming Kalakshetra Foundation's chairman Gopalkrishna Gandhi and director Leela Samson, who serves her last day in that capacity on Monday, lists 13 members as being part of the governing board.
It is reliably learnt that many of the board members have decided to take up the issue of her resignation, both internally and with the Ministry of Culture.
Apollo Hospitals managing director Preetha Reddy, who attended the board meeting on April 10, said the issue of Ms. Samson's age was brought up for discussion at the meeting, among several other points.
“However, there was no indication of her resignation [on that day]. I got to know about her decision only a couple of days later. A majority of us feel that she should be brought back. Her contribution to the institution is phenomenal and her integrity unquestionable. She has put Kalakshetra on the world map. The board should meet soon.”
President of The Music Academy N. Murali, also a board member, said: “The alacrity and unseemly haste with which her resignation has been dealt with is shocking. The government should re-appoint her for a fresh term.”
Observing that Ms. Samson was indispensable for Kalakshetra at this juncture, Mr. Murali said: “Clearly, she has been made a victim of circumstances. The age factor alone cannot lead to such a strong decision. She has been cornered and forced to resign. It is unfortunate that the governing board was not taken into confidence in this matter. Many of us were not present at the meeting.”
Founder-director of the Rasa Centre for Theatre Arts and Special Needs, Ambika Kameshwar, a board member, said she was surprised to hear of Ms. Samson's resignation. She missed the meeting on April 10. Arundati Nag, another member, said India could not afford to take such rash decisions.
Senior advocate and Kalakshetra board member Sriram Panchu said the Central government, and not the Kalakshetra board, was the appointing authority for the post of director of the Kalakshetra Foundation.
“At the last board meeting, the government was requested to consider taking necessary action for the continuance of Leela Samson as director, bearing in mind the court case.” Sources in the Ministry of Culture said that in its counter affidavit to the petition challenging Ms. Samson's continuance after she turned 60, the Ministry had clarified that her selection was different from that of other employees of the Government of India.
“The terms and conditions of her tenure had not been finalised at the time of her appointment. It was an open-ended appointment,” a senior official said. This was in August last.
Around that time, Ms. Samson had told the Ministry that she would step down if the Ministry wanted her to. “But, the Ministry was keen that she continues as the director. In fact, it was mulling over how to frame the terms so as to ensure that she stayed. Since the matter did not come up for hearing in the court, the Ministry was in no hurry to finalise the terms. All the same, the Government of India never intended to ask her to leave.”
‘Respect her decision'
Chairman of the Kalakshetra board Gopalkrishna Gandhi said: “Leela Samson's decision to leave her position as director of Kalakshetra was taken in the autonomy of her moral intelligence. Relinquishings such as hers should be taken in the light and echo of her inner voice, not in the script of other people's vocabularies. We must respect her decision and that of the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry appoints the director, and the Ministry alone can decide on her resignation.”
“In my view, we should look forward to Leela Samson's continuing contribution to Kalakshetra beyond her incumbency in office and not as an office-bearer, rather as the unique standard-bearer of Rukimini Devi's legacy. Leela Samson's pre-eminent position as an exponent and teacher of classical dance is one of India's cultural gifts, of which, perhaps, the greatest articulation lies still ahead for her.”