A storm of bigotry, communalism and hatred has been unleashed on social media over this weekend against popular Carnatic music singer Sudha Ragunathan. This, after a wedding invitation for her daughter's marriage to a foreign national became widely circulated on Twitter. Self-proclaimed 'protectors of the Hindu culture' alleged that the bride, Malavika, was converting to Christianity and demanded that Sudha Ragunathan not be allowed to perform in sabhas and temples any longer.
The vile comments against the family began on June 19 and continue unabated across social media platforms. The skin colour of the groom Michael Murphy, who is of African descent, further prompted racist jibes. Rumours are also being spread that Sudha and her entire family have converted to Christianity.
The attacks were not dissimilar to those faced by singers including Nityashree Mahadevan and OS Arun in August 2018, for recording and performing songs in praise of Jesus in Carnatic ragas.
Finally the Cat jumped on the wall. Famous Carnatic singer Sudha Ragunathan daughter's marriage reception card. Sure wedding may solamaniosed in a church. Hope In feature all the music Shabas dump her for season, churchs may offer chance for Kachery. @shakkuiyer @ShefVaidya pic.twitter.com/E9hBy6qyZHтАФ Nandagopal.K.M. (@nandaji1958) June 23, 2019
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(We already know that Sudha Raghunathan, OS Arun and Nithyashree Mahadevan have converted into a different religion. Why talk about them? Now we must talk about saving the girls that remain.)
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(Sudha Raghunathan will now join Paul Dhinakaran to sing songs on Jesus)
The tweets suggest that by mere association - professional or personal to another religion, the performers have brought shame to their art.
However several people have come out in support of Sudha Ragunathan and her family, rightly pointing out that marriage is an individual choice and not a matter of public discussion. The jingoism and communalism in the tweets were also criticised.
(I really enjoy Sudha Raghunathan's voice. We have even shared the stage once. She was very respectful to everyone at that event. She was helping educate a lot of poor children and spoke about that. Her daughter Malavika has chosen the person she wants to get married to. The groom Micheal belongs to America. He has earned a doctorate. To take life in the direction of love is amazing. Go past those who talk ill.)
тАЛSpeaking to TNM, performer and music academician Swarnamalya who has been acquainted with Sudha's family for decades now, says, "Social media has exposed the bigotry of the communities that are consuming these art forms. They seem to have no decorum, sense of propriety, not even a modicum of respect for the great artiste she is. As a public figure, one is used to handling such insanity and I'm sure Sudha Aunty will know better than to pay heed. But of course we as a society have so much to reflect on our behaviour, intolerance and indecency."
She further pointed out that this entire episode, while distasteful, sent out an important message.
"The next time the Classical (Carnatic) world feels indignant and cries wolf when someone points out its deep-set bigotry, we must all know better, about their true toxic nature and the depths they can sink to," she says.
Attempts to contact singer Sudha Ragunathan on the controversy were unfruitful.