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Dhrupad Sansthan to reconsider ICC composition after pressure from students

Umakant Gundecha. File.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


The Dhrupad Sansthan, an international residential music school here, is reconsidering the composition of its internal complaints committee (ICC) formed recently to inquire into allegations of sexual harassment by former students against teacher Akhilesh Gundecha after a section of students claimed its members were connected to the Gundecha family.

“There was less representation of students in the four-member committee,” Umakant Gundecha, chairman of the organisation which promotes the ancient style of Hindustani classical music, told The Hindu. “So, we are planning to reconstitute a new one with members picked in consultation with students.”

Former IAS officer Anshu Vaish recused herself from the ICC, whose composition the organisation declared on September 5, after arts writer Devina Dutt in a Facebook post said she (Ms. Vaish) was reportedly close to the Gundecha family along with other members.

“The remaining three may remain, but more will be added. But if students want, the committee can be dissolved too,” said Mr. Umakant, whose other brother, late Ramakant Gundecha was also accused of sexual harassment in a Facebook post on September 2, which shared an allegation from an anonymous source that was first reportedly made on a WhatsApp group.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by 22 former and current resident students of the sansthan (institute) demanded an apology from the family for not acting earlier.

The sansthan functioned like a small family-owned business, having no external faculty members, no governing body nor an external oversight committee, said a resident student, requesting anonymity.

“The ICC is in a complete mess, and no student is aware of its functioning. It should have been set up long ago in accordance with the law. You are not supposed to constitute it only after an incident takes place,” the student said.

Pointing out there had been a “complete communication breakdown” between students standing with survivors and the organisation, the student said, “Some women, all foreign nationals, were brave enough to come out publicly, but Indian students fear retribution.”

The statement further claimed Mr. Akhilesh did not step down voluntarily, as stated by the organisation, but under pressure from students, and mounting evidence. “Many resident students raised the allegations against Mr. Akhilesh to his face during a meeting on September 2, which forced him to recuse himself,” claimed the student.

However, Mr. Umakant maintained Mr. Akhilesh, a pakhawaj player, had stepped down of his own accord. “After the discussion with students, he recused himself,” he said.

Asserting the sansthan had been in touch with students since the allegations came up, Mr. Umakant said, “It’s a legal matter. Students are in talks with us, and we invite them to meetings. We will take the next step based on the committee’s recommendations. We want a safe environment for everyone.”

On the demand the ICC even inquire into charges against Ramakant, Mr. Umakant said it was up to it. “Being dead, he can’t defend himself. So what will come of inquiring into the allegations against him?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the student said nearly all the 24 resident students on campus when the allegations came up have decided to return home.

On the demand by some quarters that Mr. Umakant step down too to avoid a conflict of interest while leading the inquiry against his own brother, the student said, “Umakant Gundecha is Dhrupad Sansthan. Without him, students will have nowhere else to go for learning.”

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 5:20:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/dhrupad-sansthan-to-reconsider-icc-composition-after-pressure-from-students/article32588565.ece

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