Swarnamalya had been approached in September to present a paper at a seminar conducted by Sahitya Akademi, but later was suddenly dropped from the event.

After outcry Sahitya Akademi extends fresh invite to dancer Swarnamalya
news MeToo Thursday, November 29, 2018 - 17:54

After several scholars and artists condemned Sahitya Akademi’s sudden move to drop ‘Me Too’ activist Swarnamalya from a seminar, the Akademi has now formally invited her to present a paper at the event.

Taking to Facebook on Thursday, Swarnamalya posted a picture of the invitation for the seminar to be held on December 11 and 12 and thanked all those from the academic and art world who supported her.

“I am thankful for the support that poured in from the world of scholars, academicians and the public which put pressure on the Sahitya Akademi to think on their course of conduct with regards to the seminar to happen on Music and dance at Coimbatore on Dec11th and 12th, to which they originally invited me and then uninvited me,” she wrote.

Swarnamalya, an actor and Bharatnatyam dancer, extended an invitation in September to present a paper and dance recital at a Sahitya Akademi seminar on Tamil dance and music in Coimbatore. The dancer, who was presenting the paper on Sadir – a dance form practised by Devadasis – said that she had mailed her presentation and booked tickets for her musicians when earlier this month, she was informed that the Akademi had decided to drop her from the list of invitees. This came after Swarnamalya and her sister Radhika Ganesh had voiced support to those who had come out with their experiences of sexual harassment within the Carnatic music and dance circles.

Although the Akademi officials justified the move by stating that they had never contacted Swarnamalya directly, Prof Mammathu, a third party expert who was charged with suggesting names of participants and inviting them, informed Swarnamalya that the ‘higher-ups’ had decided to drop her name.

“He (Prof Mammathu) told me that it was because the Akademi had decided they wouldn’t have dance performances as that came under Sangeeta Natak Akademi’s purview. When I asked him if I’m still presenting the paper, he told me that the ‘higher-ups’ had decided to strike my name off entirely,” Swarnamalya had stated.

When TNM contacted Sirpi Balasubramaniam, the coordinator of the seminar and board member of Sahitya Akademi TN, he said that they (the Akademi officials) had not personally invited Swarnamalya and was not included in the final list of invitees.

However, contradicting this, Prof Sunder Kali who was a part of the seminar, said that Swarnamalya’s name had made it to the list but had been dropped at the very last minute with no valid reason.

“I had suggested her name as this is her field of expertise. As a scholar, I feel what the Akademi has done is unfair, and this is why I am boycotting the seminar,” he had earlier told TNM.

Among the others who had condemned the move to drop Swarnamalya were singer TM Krishna and dancer Anita Ratnam – both of whom were vocal about their support for the ‘Me Too’ movement in India.

"Fundamentally to withdraw an invitation without any valid reason is just wrong and no excuse can justify it. If the cancellation is a result of Dr Swarnamalya Ganesh's work in the #metoo campaign it makes this that much more shadowy and murky. Swarnamalya and Chinmayi have to be in fact thanked for bringing into focus the underbelly of the classical arts," TM Krishna had earlier told TNM.

"This exclusion is most unfortunate. Swarnamalya is facing the expected fall out from shaking the patriarchal foundations of smugness. Cancellations, ostracization, exclusion are all barriers that strong women face. She must not be fazed or diverted," Anita Ratnam had said.

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