Pt Ravi Shankar Upadhyay, a noted pakhawaj player and a guru at the capital’s Kathak Kendra, was arrested for alleged molestation after a 23-year-old student of the institute registered an FIR at Chanakyapuri police station.
Kathak Kendra is an affiliate of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. Purported CCTV footage of the incident has been handed to the police by the director of the institute.
The woman, who has been learning Kathak at the institute for 11 years, is under the tutelage of Pt Jai Kishen Maharaj, Pt Birju Maharaj’s elder son. Dance students at the institute have to earn one of the exam credits by learning a percussion instrument. The student began learning from Upadhyay about two years ago.
Speaking to The Indian Express, she alleged inappropriate touch by Upadhyay “whenever I’d touch his feet, as is the custom”. She said that she “stopped touching his feet and would touch the ground and do my pranaams”.
She added that this was followed by some obscene messages, which she didn’t reply to.
She alleged it was the incident on December 14 that prompted her to lodge an FIR. The student had gone to the institute to practice for her exam, which was on December 16. “I knew he left at 2 pm. So I thought I would practice in peace,” said the student. She alleged she was playing with another student from her batch when the latter was asked to leave by Upadhyay on account of too much practice after “barely playing for 10 minutes.”
“He then clicked a photograph of me, which I asked him to delete,” she alleged, adding that he then grabbed her and started behaving inappropriately. She alleged that “as a reflex, I pushed him and ran away to the washroom, where I just cried there”.
After her statement, a case under IPC sections 354 and 509 (assault or criminal force/ word, gesture or act with the intent to outrage a woman’s modesty) was registered. “He allegedly molested her by putting his hands on her waist and kissed her on her forehead. He also tried to kiss on her face. The statements of other students are also being recorded. Investigation of the case is being carried out,” said Eish Singhal, DCP, New Delhi.
The student called up Suman Kumar, the director of the institute, the same evening. Since he wasn’t available to meet, she was asked to put in a written complaint. She sent an email to Kumar and then lodged an FIR the same day. On the morning of December 15, Upadhyay was arrested from the institute. “I was yet to take any action when the police came in plain clothes and arrested him. I have already suspended him. We will fully cooperate with the police,” said Suman Kumar.
Senior Kathak exponent Pt Rajendra Gangnani, who also teaches at the institute, said Covid has resulted in minimal classes, and most of the teaching is happening online. The student went to the institute because she didn’t have a pakhawaj at home.
Upadhyay is the son of pakhawaj maestro Ramji Upadhyay of the Gaya gharana and carries a 400-year-old family legacy. His wife and three children are also musicians. He has accompanied many reputed artistes on stage.
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