Organisers of the Tansen Samaroh, a four-day classical concert series that takes place near the tomb of 16th-century musician Tansen in Behaat in Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior district, have dropped a performance by pakhawaj player Akhilesh Gundecha.
Since October, an Internal Complaints Committee has been investigating allegations of sexual harassment against Akhilesh Gundecha and Ramakant Gundecha, two of the three Gundecha brothers who run the Dhrupad Sansthan in Bhopal. After the allegations surfaced, Akhilesh had voluntarily recused himself from all the activities of Dhrupad Sansthan.
Tansen Samaroh is organised jointly by the Ustad Alauddin Khan Kala Evam Sangeet Academy and the Madhya Pradesh Department Of Culture. Students of Dhrupad Sansthan are scheduled to perform on December 28.
The decision to drop Akhilesh’s performance comes in the wake of discomfort from Madhu Bhatt Tailang, the Jaipur-based dhrupad singer with whom Akhilesh was to perform, and social media backlash from past and present students of Dhrupad Sansthan and artistes such as Carnatic classical vocalist TM Krishna due to the ongoing probe.
“#MeToo accused Akhilesh Gundecha who has serious charges against him was to participate at the Tansen Samaroh in Gwalior hosted by Ustad Alauddin Khan Kala Evam Sangeet Academy and the Culture department, MP Govt what are you going to do about it?” tweeted Krishna.
Tailang told The Sunday Express that she wasn’t aware of the sexual harassment investigation when she chose Akhilesh as her accompanying artiste. Tailang, a professor of music at Rajasthan University and an A Grade artiste at All India Radio, has performed with him before a number of times. “I have always shared a good relationship with Akhilesh ji. Besides being a good pakhawaj player, he has been very respectful. I wasn’t aware of the allegations since I was dealing with my father’s ill health. I am a woman and because this particular investigation is on, it does not give out the right message that I perform with him. I have already recommended pakhawaj player Ankit Parikh’s name to the Academy. I want to have the freedom of mind while giving a performance,” said Tailang.
Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Principal Secretary of the Department of Culture, Trustee Secretary at Bharat Bhawan and Secretary of the MP Culture Council, refused to comment on the matter.
Naeem Khan, the programme manager of Tansen Samaroh, who has been in touch with Tailang regarding the listing and dropping of Akhilesh, also denied comment on the issue.
Rahul Rastogi, director of the Sangeet Academy, could not be reached for comment.
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