Akhilesh Gundecha steps down from Dhrupad Sansthan amid sexual harassment charges

A Facebook post in a group four days ago accused the two brothers of different forms of abuses for years.

September 05, 2020 07:17 pm | Updated September 06, 2020 04:39 am IST - Bhopal:

Akhilesh Gundecha. File

Akhilesh Gundecha. File

The Dhrupad Sansthan here has said it has launched an inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Akhilesh Gundecha, a pakhawaj player and a music teacher, who had voluntarily recused himself from all activities of the organisation which promotes the ancient style of Hindustani classical music.

In a statement issued on September 3, the organisation’s chairman Umakant Gundecha, brother of Mr. Akhilesh, said, “We have instituted an internal committee for prevention and redressal of all issues. This committee shall be the primary point of contact for any and all issues relating to the safety of women.” The committee will look into complaints brought to its notice and “strive to deliver justice without prejudice”.

Former students have also levelled similar charges, on Facebook, against late Ramakant Gundecha, part of the Gundecha Brothers duo with Mr. Umakant. He died last year.

The organisation, on the outskirts of the city, houses a hostel which invites students from across the world. Mr. Umakant did not take calls despite repeated attempts while Mr. Akhilesh’s phone was switched off.

A Facebook post in a group four days ago accused the two brothers of different forms of abuses for years. “We, men and women; from all over the world: India, Europe, Asia and America; adults but minor(s) too; witnesses and victims, are coming together to testify about psychological, physical and sexual abuses by Akhilesh and Ramakant Gundecha,” the post said.

Stating that they had been “prisoners of this silence” for the fear of reprisals, the post claimed the brothers weren’t afraid to sexually harass them during one-on-one classes and told many students to oblige them if they wanted to have a career in music.

Further, it claimed the organisation was tainted by the “psychological, physical and sexual assault; by the abuses of power of Ramakant and Akhilesh Gundecha”, and “today they found the strength to break the silence”.

In a separate post on the group, a woman, who said she attended a Gundechas’ workshop in Europe, accused Mr. Ramakant of sending her messages about wanting to get intimate. “Why is there still a ‘hush hush’ mentality around sexual abuse in this time and age? Why do sincere people have to excuse themselves for calling out blatant misconduct?” she wrote.

Musician and author T. M. Krishna on Twitter said, “These allegations should shock, but they do not, because everybody in the ‘classical’ music world knows! That the hindustani universe chose to remain mum even when an artist was called out #mettoo is testimony to its ugly ‘guru-sishya’ power structure.”

Further, he wrote teachers were not demigods, mystics or realised souls who needed perpetual veneration. “Respect for a ‘guru’ cannot mean they are beyond questioning or accountability. Do not get tricked into surrendering your independent mind.”

He also asked the organisation (Dhrupad Sansthan), on Facebook, why it did not have a committee in place already and demanded Mr. Umakant to step down as the chairman as his continuance during the investigation of his brother represented a conflict of interest.

TV actor Sushant Singh on Twitter called upon the “flag bearers” of classical music and dance to wake up and save the sacred guru-shishya parampara .

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