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.
Huge cache of weapons seized under ‘Operation Disarm’ by TN Police
The special police team constituted by Tamil Nadu Director General of Police C. Sylendra Babu, named ‘Operation Disarm’, has seized more than 900 weapons, including three firearms.
The raids conducted on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning also rounded up 2,500 rowdy elements in South Tamil Nadu.
The arrest and seizure of weapons followed the four beheadings that took place in South Tamil Nadu, specifically in Dindigul and Tirunelveli districts in the past 12 days.
The DGP in a high-level meeting of the police officers at Madurai directed them to investigate murder cases that were even ten years old. He also called upon the officers to conduct routine raids at the residences and premises of rowdy elements in these districts.
The DGP also told the police officers to round up and arrest those people who can be involved in possible retaliatory attacks. Police officers said that the DGP also directed them to intensify night patrolling and not to allow any untoward incidents to happen in the days to come.
According to a senior DSP who was present in the meeting, the DGP was furious over the back-to-back murders in these districts and the resurgence of caste wars that had dominated South Tamil Nadu during the mid-1990s.
Sociologist and Professor at a foreign university M.K. Krishnan, who hails from Madurai, while speaking to IANS said, “Police have to take stringent action against those who take law into their hands. However, unless the sublime issue of caste is not weeded out this will reappear in one form or the other.
“While the present DMK government has had a good start, the awareness on the futility of fights over castes have to be inculcated in young minds and for that good education is very important. These youths who are involved in beheadings will not be allowed to be given any heroic receptions.”
Carcass of tiger found in Dudhwa reserve
The carcass of a tiger was found on Sunday in the Mailani range of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.
The carcass was found alongside the Gola-Pilibhit road near Chhedipur village here and the tiger is said to be two years old.
Sanjay Kumar Pathak, field director of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR), said that all vital organs, including jaws and nails, were intact though there were some abrasion marks on the carcass.
“The circumstances indicate that the tiger died in a road accident or it could be due to fighting during the mating season,” Pathak said.
He said the exact cause of the death could be ascertained after post mortem by a team of experts from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Bareilly.
The post mortem would be conducted according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) guidelines, Pathak said.
Pramod Tiwari denies hand in attack on BJP MP
Former Congress MP Pramod Tiwari has rejected the allegation that he was behind the attack on Pratapgarh BJP MP Sangam Lal Gupta.
Tiwari, speaking on the phone, said, “He is trying to gain attention in the party and increase his TRP ahead of the Assembly elections.”
Tiwari alleged that Gupta had himself torn his clothes and there might have been a scuffle between the workers which somebody told me. Nobody attacked the MP, Tiwari said.
The BJP MP had alleged that the supporters of Congress leader Pramod Tiwari had beaten him on Saturday as the supporters of both clashed at the ‘Garib Kalyan Mela’ in Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP alleged that the video of the attack was a proof and Gupta was beaten up in the presence of Tiwari and his daughter Aradhana Mishra, who is congress leader in the Assembly.
Both have refuted the allegation and said, “Gupta was making allegations because in Pratapgarh BJP was feeling helpless, so they are resorting to such cheap tactics.”
Congress MP Pramod Tiwari, Congress legislature party leader Aradhana Mishra and 48 others have been booked under Section 307 (attempt to murder), 146 (rioting) and 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) at the Lalganj police station in Pratapgarh.
The case was registered late on Saturday night after BJP MP Sangam Lal Gupta, with his supporters, blocked traffic on the Prayagraj-Pratapgarh road for several hours.
Earlier on Saturday, several people were injured as Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers came to blows during the Gareeb Kalyan Mela held at Sangipur development block auditorium in Pratapgarh district.
BJP MP Sangam Lal Gupta was also allegedly beaten up and had to be rescued by the police and escorted to a safe place.
Congress leader Pramod Tiwari was also manhandled and Aradhana Mishra’s mobile phone was lost in the melee.
According to reports, BJP MP Sangam Lal Gupta was invited as the chief guest at the Gareeb Kalyan Mela but he came late.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Pramod Tiwari and Aradhana Mishra ‘Mona’ reached the Mela venue and a few minutes later, the BJP MP also arrived, leading to tension among the Congress and BJP workers.
After a heated argument, both groups attacked each other. In a video which went viral, it can be seen that some people chased his vehicle and damaged it. The programme was also suspended following the chaos. Heavy force reached the spot and controlled the situation.
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