Dhrupad maestros, Gundecha brothers have been accused of sexual harassment and assault by female students of their school, Dhrupad Sansthan in Madhya Pradesh, as per a BBC investigation.
BBC said Monica’s name has been changed to protect her identity because she fears reprisal. But she is keen to share her story. She alleges that she was raped by the late Ramakant Gundecha, a famous classical Indian musician, while she was a student at his school, Dhrupad Sansthan, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
Gundecha died in November 2019 but he and his brothers, Umakant and Akhilesh, have since been accused of sexual harassment and assault by female students of the music school.
Over the course of a three-month investigation, the BBC has heard multiple allegations against all three Gundecha brothers. Umakant and Akhilesh deny the allegations, the report said.
Ramakant was and Umakant still is a famous exponent of Dhrupad, one of the oldest genres of Hindustani music, while Akhilesh is a percussionist. In 2012, Ramakant and Umakant received the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award for their contribution to music.
The report said Dhrupad Sansthan, the prestigious school they founded and taught at, has attracted hundreds of students, foreign and Indian, from across the globe. It claims to have accreditation from Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee. But the Unesco told the BBC that it had no links to the school and said it will be sending a ‘cease and desist’ notice demanding the withdrawal of such claims.
BBC said the allegations against the brothers have sent shockwaves through the classical music world, where they enjoy fame and status. The allegations have also shone a spotlight on an ancient tradition, the guru-shishya parampara – an informal contract by which the student is usually expected to completely surrender to the will of the teacher.
Allegations against the three brothers range from sharing flirtatious and sexually suggestive messages to exposing themselves during class to molestation and, in the case of Ramakant, even rape, the report said.
As per the report, Monica said she was in her first week at the school when she began receiving inappropriate WhatsApp messages from Ramakant. She alleged that one evening he drove her to a dark car park and molested her in the backseat of his car.
“He started kissing me. I pushed him away but he kept trying,” she said. “He touched my body and tried to unclothe me. At that time, I realised I was not moving. I was like a stone. At one point he realised that I was not responding. So he asked me, should I drop you back at the school? But I couldn’t even reply.”
The report mentioned that Monica said she wanted to erase the memory of the incident. She didn’t leave the school immediately because she loved the music and was keen to pursue it further. She had left her job and invested all her money to study at the school.
But then three months later, she alleged, Ramakant raped her. “[He] entered the room, pulled my pants off and forcefully had sex with me. And when he had finished he just left. I went to the door and bolted it. And for three days, I didn’t eat,” she said.
The report said Sarah, another student at the school, whose name has also been changed, told the BBC that she was molested by Akhilesh Gundecha.
“I got sick when I was there and was hospitalised,” she said. “Akhilesh came to take me back to the school. He sat next to me in the car and started touching my hands. I pulled them away. It felt very strange.”
In total, five women told the BBC they had witnessed abuse and harassment on the Dhrupad Sansthan campus. Some said that when they rebuffed sexual advances from Ramakant Gundecha, he lost interest in teaching them. They also alleged that if a student complained, she was often publicly humiliated in class.
BBC said Rachel, who didn’t want to remain anonymous, said she had found the strength to speak up now, several years later, only after similar allegations came to light in a Facebook post shared by a group called ‘Dhrupad Family Europe’ in September 2020.
As per the report, through their lawyers, both Akhilesh and Umakant Gundecha denied all of these allegations, stating that “vested interests” from outside the student community were trying to “further their agenda of causing damage to the art and reputation of the Gundecha Brothers and Dhrupad Sansthan”.
But the charges are also being investigated by an internal complaints committee over the last four months.
BBC said students say the committee at Dhrupad Sansthan was formed only after they put pressure on the school. Former students, who are part of a support group for the survivors, have also alleged that they have received threats on multiple occasions for speaking out in support. Survivors are bound by law not to disclose the results of the investigation.
Lingayat mutt sex scandal: Accused seer denied bail, custody extended
Denying bail to rape accused Lingayat seer of the Chitradurga Murugha Mutt, a court in Karnataka’s Chitradurga district extended the Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru’s judicial custody till October 10.
Second Additional Sessions Judge B.K. Komala has also extended the judicial custody of accused number two, hostel warden Rashmi, till October 10.
As the accused seer’s judicial custody ended on October 10, he was presented before the court and after its order, he was taken to the Central Jail in the district.
The court had earlier rejected his plea to consider bail on medical grounds and also denied him special permission to have food from the Mutt and conduct worship during the imprisonment.
Meanwhile, Veerashaiva-Lingayat leaders have called a meeting on September 29 to discuss on the accused seer’s decision not to step down as the head of the Chitradurga mutt in spite of the serious allegations under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The mutt, one of the richest among the Lingayat mutts, has 3,000 branches all across the country and runs more than 150 premier education institutions.
The letter circulated among leaders of the community states that as the accused seer is not coming forward to step down, it would affect the heritage and prestige of the mutt, sources said.
Actresses Nikki Tamboli, Sofia Singh taken to Tihar Jail to recreate meetings with Sukesh
Two actresses — Nikki Tamboli and Sofia Singh — were taken inside the Tihar Jail to “recreate” their alleged meeting with conmon Sukesh Chandrashekhar, a senior Delhi Police official said Tuesday.
“It was part of the ongoing probe into the Rs 200 crore extortion case related to Sukesh Chandrashekhar,” the official said.
Chandrashekhar, presently lodged in Jail No. 3 of the Tihar Jail, was arrested last year for allegedly cheating and extorting money from some high-profile people, which includes former Fortis Healthcare promoter Shivinder Mohan Singh’s wife Aditi Singh. Many women Bollywood actors and models have been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for their alleged links to Chandrashekhar.
In April 2021, he was arrested in another money laundering case linked to the 2017 Election Commission bribery case, which allegedly involved a former AIADMK leader and others.
Notably, the Enforcement Directorate, recently in an application in Supreme Court, had mentioned that accused Sukesh has repeatedly committed offences, including that of money laundering during his incarceration in jail by subverting the legal system and prison rules with the help of his knowledge of technology and his “ability to con people”.
According to the sources, ‘Big Boss’ fame Nikki Tamboli, ‘Bade Acche Lagte Hai’ fame Chahat Khanna, Sophia Singh, and Arusha Patil met Chandrashekhar in the jail premises and he introduced himself as a producer of the southern film industry.
A source said that Chandrashekhar’s aide Pinky Irani, who was arrested later, had facilitated their meetings with Chandrashekhar. All these four actresses were given expensive gifts of renowned brands such as Gucci, Versace, and Louis Vuitton.
Chandrashekhar also transferred some Rs 5.20 lakh into the account of Patil, who has admitted to have met him but not in the jail. When Irani introduced Khanna to Chandrashekhar, the actress was allegedly given Rs 2 lakh and a blue-coloured Versace watch.
Chandrashekhar allegedly deposited Rs 2 lakh into the account of Singh and later gifted her an LV bag. She was, later on, given Rs 1.5 lakh more.
Irani got an amount of Rs 10 lakh from Chandrashekhar for introducing him to Tamboli, and she gave Rs 1.5 lakh to Tamboli. Later on, Chandrashekhar gave her a Gucci bag and Rs 2 lakh on their first meeting.
Ankita Bhandari’s body found from Uttarakhand’s Chilla canal
The body of Ankita Bhandari, a 19-year-old staffer at a resort in Uttarakhand who went missing a few days ago, was recovered from the Chilla canal in the state on Saturday and Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami has ordered an SIT probe led by DIG P. Renuka Devi to probe the murder.
The prime accused in the case is BJP leader Vinod Arya’s son Pulkit Arya.
Ankita, a resident of Dobhin Srikot, who used to work in the Vantara resort in Uttarakhand’s Pauri Garhwal. She went missing on September 18.
The BJP has removed Vinod Arya as well as his other son Ankit following the incident.
Taking to Twitter, Dhami poste:, “Today morning, daughter Ankita’s body was recovered. Heart-broken with this heart-wrenching incident.”
On directions of the Chief Minister, the JCB razed to ground accused’s illegal resort on Friday night.
Strict action will be taken against the officers who were involved in the illegal construction of the resort, Dhami said.
“It is our resolve that the those guilty of this heinous crime will bot be spared,” he added.
Ankita’s family had lodged a missing complaint on September 21 with the revenue police and on the District Magistrate’s direction, the matter was trasferred to regular police the next day.
Taking cognisance of the incident, Ashok Kumar, Director General of Police, Uttarakhand, had directed the Superintendent of Police, Pauri for a speedy investigation into the incident.
Following their arrest, they told the police that after murdering Ankita, they threw her body in Chila Shakti canal.
Under the guidance of DGP Uttarakhand, the SDRF started search for Ankita in Shakti Canal, Chila Power House.
SDRF rescue team has been searching the spot and the deep divers were also looking for the body in the bottom of the canal.
The search operation had resumed this morning during which the body was found.
The body has been handed over to the district police.
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