Voices from across the civil society come together to condemn the harassment of Carnatic Musicians T M Krishna, O S Arun and Nithyasree Mahadevan
New Delhi, Sept. 20, 2018
In a shocking development affecting the acclaimed musicians of the carnatic tradition, it has come to light that artistes like T M Krishna, O S Arun and Nithyasree Mahadevan have been harangued by some fringe groups in India and the US for performing songs on Christian or supposedly non-Hindu themes.
It has been reported that many musicians have received threats by right wing Hindu organisations, for bringing people and religions together on a musical platform. Some of them have been bullied into making apologies and cancelling concerts. O. S. Arun was invited by T. Samuel Joseph, a long time student and teacher of Carnatic music to render Carnatic compositions on Christ. Arun was attacked online and pressure was put on him to cancel. Within days, WhatsApp and social media clippings of Nithyasree Mahadevan rendering a Christian song also began circulating with comments to establish disapproval. Reportedly, the SSVT Temple in Washington DC which had invited T.M.Krishna to sing, cancelled the invitation at the behest of self-appointed Hindu gatekeepers.
A statement condemning these attacks and asserting the freedom of speech, expression and religion of all these musicians (and the aficionados of their music) signed by about 200 eminent citizens has been released today. The statement initiated by Ashok Vajpeyi and Aruna Roy has been signed by former judges Justice A P Shah and Justice K Chandru and several senior personalities from the arts and culture fraternity. Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Anand Patwardhan, Leela Samson, Shubha Mudgal, Malavika Sarukkai, Mallika Sarabhai, and Tripurari Sharma also figure among the signatories.
The statement endorsed by Romila Thapar, Amit Bhaduri, Rajmohan Gandhi, Ashish Nandy, Ramachandra Guha, Shiv Visvanathan, Mukul Kesavan, Syeda Hameed, Abha Sur, Prabhat Patnaik, Jayati Ghosh and several former diplomats, senior bureaucrats and lawyers like Indira Jaising and Prashant Bhushan says, “We, the undersigned, register our strong protest and condemn this continual harassment, intimidation and the use of other undemocratic methods to silence voices. These are expressions of creativity, unity, humanity which are helping shape the building of a modern syncretic tradition in Indian classical music.”
It is worth noting that the Tamil writer who was harassed by cultural fundamentalists for his novel Madhurobhagan (One Part Woman) and whose verses have been sung by T M Krishna has also signed the statement that says - “We cannot allow the intimidation and threat of violence by a (small) group which arrogates to itself, the role of being the keeper of culture, tradition and heritage.”
Musician T. M. Krishna defying all these attempts to coerce him, said: “Considering the vile comments and threats issued by many on social media regarding Carnatic compositions on Jesus, I announce here that I will be releasing one Carnatic song every month on Jesus or Allah.”
The statement ends with an appeal to all Indians to join hands and stand up against this cultural dictatorship that is being attempted to be established. It says, “We reassert the universal truth that music is not and cannot be denominational, and an exclusive domain of any one religion. All music is open to participation to people of all communities, and musical heritage belongs to humanity. We condemn the nascent attempts to limit and stifle free expression and invite you to join in voicing your protest.”
Aruna Roy, Ashok Vajpeyi, Mallika Sarabhai, Teesta Setalvad, Mukul Kesavan, Bezwada Wilson and over 100 others