The Arts

Artists Pen Open Letter Against Sexual Predators, Silent Complicity in Carnatic Music

After a slew of #MeToo allegations have hit the Carnatic music industry, 231 members of the Carnatic music industry have signed a petition in an effort to "bring to light those who have misused their position and power".

New Delhi: More than a week after #MeToo allegations have picked up tempo across industries in India, the Carnatic music industry hit the unmute button. On October 10, popular playback singer Chinmayee outed several names and alleged that they had assaulted their students.

She wrote, “B M Sundaram, Pappu Venugopal Rao, Sunil Kothari, Lokanatha Sarma, T N Seshagopalan, Sasikiran, Ravikiran, O S Thyagarajan. My inbox is crawling with stories from people. For you too the #TimesUP.”

She also said, “Stop assaulting young girls. The stench from the Carnatic Classical scene is worse than I imagined it.”

Soon after, noted Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna to Facebook to describe a rampant culture of sexual misconduct. “For years we have heard stories about these issues within the Carnatic and Bharatanatyam world. I vividly remember that about 10 years ago, a young girl came out on Facebook describing her horrid experiences ​and I am ashamed that ​we ignored her. Male power structures, hierarchies and our own conservative fears resulted in the trivialising of her complaint. We have all been complicit by our silence,” Krishna wrote.

“These accusations must be investigated by independent members of civil society. I also request anyone else who may have had similar experiences to find ways of sharing your stories. Thank you Chinmayi,” he wrote.

Singer Sunitha Sarathy also shared her experience on Facebook of how she was sexually abused as a child. “Sexual abuse kills you in ways that only someone who goes through it can understand. If you have never been sexually abused – you will never know what it does to you,” reads her post.

She has also talked about how she still meets and shares a stage with people who she knows are “devils”.

“One Devil who makes sure I’m unrecommended from work because I said no to his advances – 1 of them is a very saintly , influential musician , who makes sure I don’t get work,” she wrote. “To my fellow singers – DO NOT PROTECT KNOWN PREDATORS, we have all spoken abt men who have been dirty to us to other singers. Give this #Metoo movement a chance.”

Even senior vocalist O.S. Thyagarajan was slammed by allegations by a student. “He pulled me into a hug kind of forcefully and then suddenly I felt that I was being groped from the front. And I noticed that we were in the living room of his flat and one of the bedrooms was behind him. I noticed being pulled into one direction, towards the room. So immediately, my fight or flight instinct kicked in and I knew I had to do something before it went to another level,” she said, narrating the story of her alleged molestation.

In an open letter, 231 members of the Carnatic music industry have said that they have signed a petition in an effort to “bring to light those who have misused their position and power to exploit those at risk”.

“Many such instances in the past have been brushed under the carpet, subsequently creating a culture of silent complicity. There continues to be a deafening silence that needs to be broken,” the open letter says.

The full text has been reproduced below.


From the Carnatic Music Community:

Over the past few days, we have all read many disturbing accounts of sexual harassment, abuse and assault, including from within the Carnatic music community. Many such instances in the past have been brushed under the carpet, subsequently creating a culture of silent complicity. There continues to be a deafening silence that needs to be broken. As artistes and students of music, we believe it is our responsibility to speak up and acknowledge that such unacceptable behaviour must be strongly condemned, in order to create a more equitable and safe environment for all people.

It is important to address this issue and bring to light those who have misused their position and power to exploit those at risk. We ask for due process through civil society investigations into these allegations to hold these individuals accountable, and whole-heartedly welcome those who want to come forward and share their stories. At this juncture, we also encourage and request sabhas and cultural organisations all over the world to recognise this issue and put forward proactive structural measures to address such claims and prevent future incidents. We believe that this will make the Carnatic community safer for all.

Yours in solidarity:

Aarathi Bharadwaj

Abhay Anil Kumar

Abhinav Seetharaman

Abhishek Balakrishnan

Abhishek Raghuram

Abhishek Ravishankar

Adarsh Ramchandran

Adhiti Rajesh

Aditya Vempaty

Aishwarya Shankar

Aishwarya Srinivas

Aishwarya Vidya Raghunath

Aisvarya Chandrasekar

Ajay Gopi

Akshay Anantapadmanabhan

Akshay Ravi

Amritha Murali

Anamika Kannan

Anantha R. Krishnan

Ananya Ashok

Anil Narasimha

Anil Srinivasan

Anirudh Athreya V.

Anirudh Venkatesh

Anisha Gururaj

Aparna M. Sridhar

Aparna Thyagarajan

Apoorva Das

Apoorva Rajesh

Aravind Bhargav

Archana Bharadwaj

Archana Venkatesan

Arthi Nadhan

Arthi Suresh

Arun Kumar V.K.

Arun Mahadevan

Arun Ramamurthy

Asha Ramesh

Ashvin Bhogendra

Ashvin Ravi

Ashwath Narayanan

Ashwin Srikant

Ashwinn Balachandran

Athrey Nadhan

Badrinath Govindarajan

Bharath Krishna D.R.

Bharathi Ramasubban

Bhavana Iyer

Bombay Jayashri

Brindha Manickavasagam

Chaitrra Sairam

Chandra Ram

Chandrasekara Sharma G.

Charumathi Raghuraman

Chinmayee Venkatraman

Chitra Lakshumanan

David Claman

Delhi Sairam

Dileep K.J.

Erode Nagaraj

Ganavya Doraiswamy

Gayatri K.

Geeta Shankar

Geetha Iyer

Ghatam S. Karthick

Gopal Ravindhran

Gopalakrishnan K.V.

Gowri Raghunandan

Guhan Venkataraman

Guruprasad N.

Hari Kappiyoor

Hariharan Ravi

Harini Rajashekar

Harsha Nagarajan

Hiranmayee S.

Hrishi Balaji

Hrishikesh Chary

Indhu Naga

Janani Ramesh

Jayanth Balasubramanian

Jayanth J.A.

Jayashree Suresh

Jerry Barr

Jyotsna Sivakumar

K. Bharat Sundar

Kamya Sankar

Karthick Narayanan

Karthik Iyer

Karun Salvady

Kaushik Sridhar

Kavi Srinivasaragavan

Kavya Kodungallur

Keerthana Sankar

Keerthi Venkataramani

Krithika Natarajan

Krithika Rajkumar

Kumar Kanthan

Kyvalya Chilla

Lakshmi Anand

Lalit Subramanian

Latika Sridhar

Lavanya Kothandaraman

Maanasa Dhotrekar

Madhav Iyengar

Maheetha Bharadwaj

Malini Mahes

Mathangi Sridharan

Medhini Ramesh

Meenakshi Sri Vempaty

Meghana Karra

Murari V.V.S.

Muthu Krishna M.

Mysore Sangeetha Dileep

Mytreyi Shastry Aravind

Nachikethan Srinivasan

Namita Shenoy

Nanditha Ravi

Narayanan Ravishankar

Neha Krishnamachary

Nikita Hariharan

Nisha Rajagopal

Nishanth Chandran

Nishanth Thiagarajan

Nithya Garg

Nyantara Narasimhan

Parameswaran Amit Ranganathan

Prasanna Rajan

Prasanna Venkataraman

Praveen Sparsh

Preetha Narayanaswamy

Prema Rangachary

Priya Darshini

Priyanka Chary

Ragavan Manian

Ragavan Sai

Rajeev M.

Rajeswari Satish

Raksha Mahalinkam

Ramachandran Suresh

Ramakrishnan L.

Ramakrishnan Murthy

Ramana Balachandran

Ramana Indrakumar

Ramesh Abhiraman

Rangashree Varadarajan

Ranjani and Gayatri

Ranjani Sivakumar Siddareddy

Ravi Srinivasan

Ravikiran G.

Ravindra Bharathy Sridharan

Rithu Rajendran

Rithvik Raja

Rohan Krishnamurthy

Rohith Jayaraman

Roopa Shastry M.

Rupa Ramanathan

Rupasri Shankar

Sai Sundar

Saigiridhar K.

Saketharaman S.

Sandeep Narayan

Sandeep Ramachandran

Sangeetha Sivakumar

Sanjeev Raja

Sanjeev V.

Sashwat Mahalingam

Sastry Vedam

Savitha Venkatapathy

Sekar Ganesan

Shakthi Shrima

Shankar Ramachandran

Shantala Subramanyam

Sharada Krishnan

Shashank Subramaniam

Shomik S. Ati

Shreya Devnath

Shreyaa Srinivasan

Shriya Srinivasan

Shruthi S. Bhat

Shruthi Subramaniam

Shyamala Ramakrishna

Siddharth Acharya

Sikkil C. Gurucharan

Sindhujha Ekambaram

Sivaganesh N

Snigdha Venkataramani

Sravya Rallapalli

Srinidhi Ramakrishna

Srinidhi Sridharan

Sriram Parthasarathy

Sriranjani Darbha

Sriranjani Santhanagopalan

Srivathsa Pasumarthi

Srivatsan Balakrishnan

Srivi Ramasubramanian

Subha Ramanan

Subha Sridharan

Subu Narayanan (Bombay Sriram)

Suchithra Balasubramanian

Sudarshan Mohan

Suraj Srinivasan

Sushma Somasekharan

Sutikshna Veeravalli

Swathi Ravichandran

Thanjavur V. Muthuraman

TM Krishna

Trivandrum V. Balaji

Triven Kannan

Varun Ganesan

Venkata Devulapalli

Venkatesh Padmanabhan

Vidhya Raghavan

Vidya Kalyanaraman

Vidya Kanthan

Vignesh Ishwar

Vignesh Krishnamurthy

Vignesh Ramanujam

Vignesh Thyagarajan

Vignesh Venkataraman

Vijay M.

Vijay Natesan

Vijay Neelakantan

Vikram Raghavan

Vilasini S.M.

Vinidhra Mani

Vishnu Srinivas

Vishvak Kumaran

Visveshwar Nagarajan

Vittal Rangan B.

Vivrd Prasanna

Yesh Subramanian