Weeks after former students of popular Carnatic musicians made allegations of sexual misconduct as part of the MeToo movement, a federation of sabhas (music organisers/venues) in Chennai has constituted an Internal Complaints Committee.
In a statement released to the press on Monday, the Federation of City Sabhas said, “The Federation of City Sabhas, Chennai notes with a deep sense of anguish the recent complaints of sexual harassment from the field of performing arts. Such acts of harassment are shameful and condemnable. The Federation and its members will maintain absolutely ZERO tolerance for any form of harassment in the art field. All allegations will be treated seriously and promptly investigated. The Federation is also prepared to take appropriate disciplinary action as necessary.”
The ICC will be headed by Uma Ramanathan, lawyer and mediator at the Tamil Nadu Mediation and Conciliation Centre, Madras High Court. The body comprises senior Carnatic musician Sudha Raghunathan, former Associate General Manager at Tata Consultancy Services Usha Dinesh, geriatric physician and psychologist Dr B Vivekanand, and Director of the Schizophrenia Research Foundation Dr R Thara.
The constitution of the ICC, legally mandated by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, comes in the wake of several allegations against popular Carnatic musicians, including OS Thyagarajan, Chitravina Ravikiran, Mannargudi A Easwaran, Srimushnam V Raja Rao, Nagai Sriram, R Ramesh and Thiruvarur Vaidyanathan.
Mohan Parasaran, senior advocate in the Supreme Court, will be an advisor to the Federation. The Federation stated, “The Committee’s proceedings will be handled with utmost confidentiality and the final report and recommendations in each case will be placed before the Federation for further action.”
The allegations were made by former students who had recounted how their gurus had exploited the teacher-student power dynamic to seek sexual favours or abuse them and silence them. Following this, popular Bharatanatyam dancer and actor Swarnamalya Ganesh initiated a public consultation process for the advocacy of redressal in the performing arts.
This also prompted support from young Carnatic musicians from around the globe to put forth a document for the constitution of a body to address issues and “to create a safer environment in the Carnatic community.” Popular singers like Ranjani and Gayatri, TM Krishna, Sriram Parthasarathy and Bombay Jayashri extended their support to the efforts.
In a significant step, the Madras Music Academy, the long-established hub of activity during the famous December music season in the city, dropped seven artistes from its festival line up.
The member-sabhas of the Federation are: Brahma Gana Sabha, Hamswadwani, Karthik Fine Arts, Narada Gana Sabha, Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha and Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha.
According to the statement, an ex-officio nominee of the Federation will be a part of the ICC. The ICC will also be assisted by an Executive Officer, who will be a “qualified lawyer working in this sphere.”
Complaints can be forwarded to the Executive Officer at: firstname.lastname@example.org