Music, dance fraternity backs movement

A petition signed by 200 musicians appeals to artists to speak up to create a safe environment

Updated - October 15, 2018 07:32 am IST

Published - October 15, 2018 01:07 am IST - CHENNAI

Sudha Ragunathan

Sudha Ragunathan

The ‘#MeToo’ storm has not left the world of Carnatic music world untouched with the names of several prominent personalities doing the rounds for their alleged sexual misconduct.

Against this backdrop, a collective of young musicians from India, the U.S. and Canada have come together under the hashtag #Carnaticmetoo to back a petition condemning the accounts of sexual harassment, abuse and assault and calling for a redressal system to handle such issues in the performing arts space.

“We hope that through the petition, we can get in touch with cultural organisations as well as performing spaces and sabhas to ensure that they acknowledge the issue and create some sort of structure to address these allegations. As a community, the onus was on us to take this step and we now want the people in power to work with us and ensure that these incidents do not happen in the future,” said members of the collective.

The petition, which has been signed by over 200 senior as well as young and upcoming musicians, states that it is the responsibility of the artistes to speak up in order to create a safer environment for everyone associated with the art.

“The numbers are growing and we've received responses from artists across the world,” they added.

‘Don’t protect men’

In a strongly-worded post on her Facebook page on Saturday, singer Sudha Ragunathan said that men who had committed such heinous acts should not be protected by their fame or fortune.

“If this mass movement of empowered women can bring to light the instances of harassment and assault, we are well on our way to building a culture that celebrates, encourages and protects women against this type of violence,” said the renowned vocalist.

Ms. Ragunathan called the women coming out with their stories as “incredibly courageous” and said that they need to be lauded. She, however, said that the ‘tag’ must be used judiciously to seek justice only.

On Twitter and Facebook, over the past week, there have been several allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, both anonymous and on record against members of the performing arts fraternity.

These involve Carnatic musicians and instrumentalists, as well as patrons of the art.

“Social media has played an extremely important role in the last few days and we’ve seen so many people speak up on Facebook. I wanted to let the younger artistes in the field know that they have people listening and offering support, which is why I went ahead and shared my number on Facebook, asking them to reach out if they need help,” said singer Sangeetha Sivakumar.

The singer had put up a post on her Facebook page stating that the #MeToocampaign was an extremely relevant one.

“The Carnatic music community is unfortunately still an extremely regressive one which makes this movement so much more important for us. We now need to think about what solutions we can bring about to ensure that a healthy environment is created for the art form,” the senior musician told The Hindu.

Public consultation

Dancer and dance historian Swarnamalya Ganesh has initiated a public consultation process through her Ranga Mandira Trust and said that they have constituted a working committee with representatives from various fields including dance, music, theatre and art as well as mental health professionals.

“We need to do something to ensure that there is a more systemic way of dealing with what is happening so that it doesn’t all die down on the internet. If not now, we will never find another opportunity to address this growing abuse of power and position which has happened, and it has disturbed me to see how much intimidation there has been in this field,” she said.

Unorganised sector

She further pointed out that in a largely unorganised sector, even the few associations which existed for performing artistes had remained silent on the ongoing issue.

Stating that most private sabhas and organisations involved in the performing arts did not have mechanisms in place to redress complaints with regard to sexual harassment or misconduct, Ms. Swarnamalya said that she further wanted to address the Ministry of Culture and make it accountable so that it could issue guidelines and ensure that the due process was followed.

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