Madras Music Academy secretary quits, his name features in sexual harassers list

Sources tell TNM that Pappu Venugopala Rao was told to either deny allegations of sexual harassment or to resign.
Madras Music Academy secretary quits, his name features in sexual harassers list
Madras Music Academy secretary quits, his name features in sexual harassers list

Renowned musicologist and academician, Pappu Venugopala Rao, has resigned as the Secretary of the Music Academy in Chennai. While the official reason Pappu reportedly gave in his resignation letter is that he cannot commit time to the Academy, sources have confirmed to TNM that the resignation is a direct fallout of his name appearing on a list of sexual harassers in academia, that is being curated by lawyer Raya Sarkar on Facebook since last month.

Lawyer and activist Raya Sarkar stirred the hornet’s nest in October, when they crowdsourced a list of academics who have sexually harassed women, or were sexually predatory, as alleged by mostly anonymous complainants. Pappu Venugopala Rao’s name featured on the list.

Multiple sources told TNM that the Academy convened a meeting to confront Pappu about his name on the list. He was told to either deny the allegations publicly, or to resign from his post. Pappu initially refused to do either, but eventually agreed to resign, the sources said. TNM is not aware of the nature of veracity of the claims against him.

N Murali, president of the Academy confirmed that Rao resigned on October 29. When asked for the reason he provided, Murali said, "According to his resignation letter, he has said that because he does a lot of traveling he is unable to cope with the commitments that come with a post in the Music Academy."

When asked if his resignation was in connection to the allegation of sexual harassment against him, the president refused to comment.

TNM could not reach Pappu Venugopala Rao for his version of events, despite multiple attempts.

Reacting to the issue, performer Dr Anita R Ratnam told TNM, “Mr Rao has been courteous and professional in my rare interactions with him. To have the Madras Music Academy's name associated with this unsavoury list is embarrassing and unfortunate. As a single woman and a performer I am well aware of the danger of sexual predators in the arts world. Naming and shaming the alleged culprits blows the issue out into the open and demands discussion.”

Pappu Venugopala Rao is an eminent musicologist, a dance critic, litterateur, author, scriptwriter and composer. He has written 15 dance-dramas, 15 books, over 100 lyrics as also the Suprabhaatam of Dwaraka Tirumala temple.

His name appeared on Raya Sarkar’s list of sexual harassers in academia in October. They crowdsourced the list, asking survivors to contact Raya directly, and putting together the list on Facebook while maintaining the anonymity of the accusers. While the list generated a lot of debate, this is perhaps the first instance of any institution taking action against a person named on it.

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