The Arts

Artists, Academics, Activists Condemn Intimidation, Harassment of Carnatic Musicians

"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."

New Delhi: More than 180 judges, musicians, artists, activists, writers and academics have released a statement condemning the recent “social policing”, intimidation and threats of violence against Carnatic musicians who are singing songs that don’t classify as “Hindu”. As The Wire had reported earlier, many mainstream Carnatic artists who have sung Christian hymns or have been seen with Christians are coming under attack by an organisation claiming to fight for Hindus in Tamil Nadu. It all began with threats made to singer O.S. Arun who sang at a ‘Christian event’.

Full text of the statement is reproduced below.

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In a recent occurrence in south India, eminent classical musicians have been intimidated, their concert engagements cancelled due to pressure from intolerant forces that claim to speak on behalf of Hindus; thereby seeking to dictate the content and nature of cultural performances and music. 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.

In the climate of social policing and restrictions on writers, thinkers and artists, the recent attacks on Carnatic musicians of repute, has again raised the sceptre of fear. This reflects the failure of the rule of law and constitutional guarantees. It is alarming that neither independent institutions such as the courts nor the governments whose duty it is to protect democratic space and freedom of expression, have stepped in to take decisive steps to end this menace.

It therefore falls upon artists, civil society groups and citizens to come forward and protect the democratic and constitutional right to creative expression. 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. This has largely gone unchallenged by the rest of civil society, except by some musicians themselves.

Music is an expression of the universal truth of harmony of existence and connects people through its appreciation. It has the capacity to be understood and bring together people across boundaries. It underscores the cross-cutting links amongst religions, blending the plurality into the oneness of sound and its appeal to all human beings and has reinforced beliefs in plurality and tolerance. While the content and the lyrics bring in the varied perceptions and understanding of people and communities, music establishes the universality of a multi-cultural society.

Carnatic music is a system of classical music which over the centuries has absorbed the cultural milieu of contemporary times and while the compositions were composed in the classical style, they celebrated differing perceptions of divinity. While the majority religion and its composers have predominantly occupied musical space, there have been composers whose lyrics have been in praise of different religious denominations. That is how it should be.

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. He was attacked online and pressure was put on him to cancel. He cancelled citing personal reasons. Within days, WhatsApp and social media clippings of Nithyasree Mahadevan rendering a Christian song began circulating with comments to establish disapproval. 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.

T.M. Krishna in a statement 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.”

We want to express our support and appreciation for the very positive efforts of these musicians and register our protest against stigmatising them. 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.

  1. Ashok Vajpeyi
  2. Aruna Roy
  3. Justice A.P. Shah
  4. Justice K. Chandru
  5. Shyam Benegal
  6. Girish Karnad
  7. Adoor Gopalakrishnan
  8. Anand Patwardhan
  9. Rajmohan Gandhi
  10. Devaki Jain
  11. Romila Thapar
  12. Mallika Sarabhai
  13. Leela Samson
  14. Shubha Mudgal
  15. Kiran Seth
  16. Jawahar Sircar
  17. Tripurari Sharma
  18. Ram Rahman
  19. Malavika Sarukkai
  20. Charul Bharwada
  21. Vinay Mahajan
  22. Prabhat Patnaik
  23. Jayati Ghosh
  24. Anand Teltumbde
  25. Satish Deshpande
  26. Abha Sur
  27. Amit Bhaduri
  28. Zoya Hasan
  29. Ashish Nandy
  30. Perumal Murugan
  31. Ramachandra Guha
  32. Shiv Visvanathan
  33. Syeda Hameed
  34. Indira Jaising
  35. Prashant Bhushan
  36. Shantha Sinha
  37. N.C. Saxena
  38. Wajahat Habibullah
  39. Julio Ribeiro
  40. John Dayal
  41. Maj Gen S.G. Vombatkere
  42. Badri Raina
  43. Namita Gokhale
  44. Abha Bhaiya
  45. Mukul Kesavan
  46. Babu Mathew
  47. Somasundar Burra
  48. Jagdeep Chhokar
  49. Devasahayam M.G.
  50. Shabnam Hashmi
  51. Bezwada Wilson
  52. Harsh Mander
  53. Medha Patkar
  54. Henri Tiphagne
  55. Dunu Roy
  56. A.K. Shivakumar
  57. Shekhar Singh
  58. Swami Agnivesh
  59. Kamla Bhasin
  60. Teesta Setalvad
  61. Rudrangshu Mukherjee
  62. P Sainath
  63. Rosamma Thomas
  64. Pamela Phillipose
  65. Keshav Desiraju
  66. S Parasuraman
  67. Mary E. John
  68. Bela Bhatia
  69. Irfan Engineer
  70. Venugopal Kasba
  71. Nityanand Jayaraman
  72. Lakshmi Krishnamurthy
  73. S. Anandalakshmy 7
  74. Vasanth Kannabiran
  75. Imrana Qadeer
  76. Nareshwar Dayal
  77. Ashok Kumar Sharma
  78. Uma Pillai
  79. Kamal Jaswal 80.Uzramma
  80. Dipali Taneja
  81. Anjana Mangalagiri
  82. Brijesh Kumar
  83. Anjali Banerji
  84. Radha Gopalan
  85. Ishrat Aziz
  86. Nagal Samy
  87. Niranjan Pant
  88. Ashok Sharma
  89. C. Balakrishnan
  90. Dr. M.A. Ibrahimi
  91. S.Y. Quraishi
  92. Fabian K.P.
  93. Abhijit Sengupta
  94. Deepak Sanan
  95. Nilanjan Hajra
  96. Vinoo Bhagat
  97. Rajni Bakshi
  98. Alok Perti
  99. Bhanumathi Sharma
  100. Arani Roy
  101. Mamta Jaitly
  102. Rekha Bezboruah
  103. Nisha Malhotra
  104. Jyothi Krishnan
  105. D.K. Manavalan
  106. P. Bhattacharya
  107. V. Ramani
  108. Salahuddin Ahmad
  109. Hirak Ghosh
  110. M.B. Pranesh
  111. Lakshmi Pranesh
  112. Shanti Kakar
  113. Geetha Thoopal
  114. Vibha Puri Das
  115. Ardhendu Sen
  116. Madhu Bhaduri
  117. S.P. Ambrose
  118. Maya Goburdhun
  119. Arun Kumar
  120. Sushil Tripathi
  121. Ravi Budhiraja
  122. Narendra Sisodia
  123. Vineeta Rai
  124. Anna Dani
  125. Vappala Balachandran
  126. Amitabha Pande
  127. Lalit Mathur
  128. Kalyani Chaudhuri
  129. E.A.S. Sarma
  130. Aftab Seth
  131. Nitin Desai
  132. Deb Mukharji
  133. K.R. Venugopal
  134. Noor Mohammad
  135. Subodh Lal
  136. Shivshankar Menon
  137. Trilochan Singh
  138. Sanjivi Sundar
  139. Pranab Mukhopadhyay
  140. Gopalan Balagopal
  141. Meenakshisundaram S.S.
  142. Aditi Mehta
  143. Meena Gupta
  144. Sujatha Rao
  145. Umrao Salodia
  146. Dr. Raju Sharma
  147. Ravi Vira Gupta
  148. Anita Agnihotri
  149. Vikram Vyas
  150. Basant Hetamsaria
  151. Arundhati Dhuru
  152. Gabriele Dietrich
  153. Krishnakant Chauhan
  154. Kamayani Bali Mahabal
  155. Poonam Muttreja
  156. Paro Anand
  157. Brij Tankha
  158. M.Y. Rao
  159. Ananya Vajpeyi
  160. Hindal Tyabji
  161. M.N. Roy
  162. A. Selvaraj
  163. Suhas Kolhekar
  164. Ramesh Gangolli
  165. Moyukh Chatterjee
  166. Anand Murugesan
  167. Devram Kanera
  168. Dipak Roy
  169. N.K. Raghupati
  170. Samantha Agarwal
  171. Ahona Palchoudhuri
  172. Lekha Bhagat
  173. Durgesh Solanki
  174. Sidharth Rattan
  175. Purnima Singh
  176. Paras Banjara
  177. Nachiket Udupa
  178. Swarna Rajagopalan
  179. Anant Nath
  180. Sumita Mehta
  181. Vinay Nagaraju
  182. Janchetna Sansthan, Rajasthan
  183. Noopur Sen
  184. Preeti Sahai
  185. Poornima Rajeshwar
  186. Anushka Siddiqui
  187. Vikram Srinivas