Indian classical music has #MeToo moment as three star performers face abuse claims
An international music school founded by a trio of celebrated classical Indian musicians is facing a storm of sexual harassment complaints lodged by students, as the world of classical Hindustani music faces its reckoning with the #MeToo movement.
The Dhrupad Sansthan school, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, was founded by the renowned Gundecha brothers - Ramakant, who died in 2019, Umakant and Akhilesh. Ramakant and Umakant are recipients of one of India's highest national honours for their contribution to music.
The school, which is said to be the first of its kind for the oldest genre of Indian music, draws many of its students from abroad, especially from Europe.
But former students are now coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse and harassment against the school
A post shared on the "Dhrupad Family Europe" Facebook group last September claimed the abuse "has been going on for years without anyone daring to say anything, but today we gather to reveal the truth of what we have suffered".
Multiple complaints later surfaced on social media, including allegations of molestation, the sharing of sexually suggestive messages with students, and, in the case of Ramakant, even rape.
Through their lawyers, Akhilesh and Umakant denied the allegations, stating that "vested interests" from outside the student community were trying to "further their agenda of causing damage to the art and reputation of the Gundecha Brothers and Dhrupad Sansthan".
Akhilesh, who stepped down from the school in light of the allegations, said the claims were “false, frivolous, and scandalous" and that “We will defend ourselves before the court."
But the claims have sent shockwaves through the world of classical Indian music, where the brothers enjoy a privileged status. Some are warning that the highly hierarchical teacher-student relationship in classical music creates an environment ripe for exploitation.
The school has established an internal committee to investigate the allegations.