The Arts

Dhrupad Sansthan May Shut for a While, Suspend Akhilesh Gundecha for a Year Over Sexual Harassment Case

The allegations against the two gurus, Ramakant and Akhilesh Gundecha, first surfaced last year on Facebook. Ramakant Gundecha died of a heart attack in 2019.

New Delhi: Months after sexual harassment allegations surfaced at the Dhrupad Sansthan a residential music gurukul that is accredited by UNESCO’s cultural heritage committee a few measures including closing down the institute for a while are under consideration, the Indian Express reported.

The allegations against the two gurus, Ramakant and Akhilesh Gundecha, first surfaced in a Facebook post last year put up by a group titled, ‘Dhrupad Family Europe’. The post highlighted the two gurus harassed students in different forms for years.

Ramakant Gundecha died of a heart attack in 2019. His elder brother Umakant now heads the Dhrupad Sansthan. Akhilesh is their brother and a pakhawaj player, whose performance was dropped from the Tansen Samaroh – a four-day classical concert series that takes place in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh – following the sexual harassment charges. (Tansen Samaroh is organised jointly by the Ustad Alauddin Khan Kala Evam Sangeet Academy and the Madhya Pradesh Department Of Culture.)

One of the measures by the institute could also be suspending Akhilesh from teaching and mentoring students for at least a year, the report said. He may come back to teaching under observation, it added.

The students who have accused Akhilesh of harassment have also demanded therapy for him. Sources told the Indian Express that the demand is being considered.

Akhilesh Gundecha. Photo: dhrupad.org

One of the students told Indian Express that in one-on-one sessions, Akhilesh would sit really close to students, sometimes behind them, and hold their hands to teach. Upon confronting him over this misbehaviour, a couple of students told the newspaper that he was not scared of any action against him. “You do whatever you want, go to the press if need be, nothing will happen to me,” Akhilesh would say, according to the students.

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Empanelled under ICCR scholarship scheme, Dhrupad Sansthan takes foreign students to teach them music. Situated on the outskirts of Bhopal, it has a hostel facility and functions as a traditional gurukul with students staying on the premises. The Sansthan is associated with the American Institute of Indian Studies.

Following the charges, the Sansthan in September last year had reconstituted and nominated five members to the Internal Complaints Committee in consonance with the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal), 2013.

Anant Gundecha, secretary of the Dhrupad Sansthan and son of the late Ramakant Gundecha, told the daily, “We have made sure that these issues are treated with sensitivity and have already taken steps in that direction. We have gender sensitisation sessions, we have a specific code of conduct for people living in the gurukul and those joining it, we have dedicated areas of teaching that are under CCTV surveillance. We will continue to do our work,” Anant told the newspaper.

According to the report, Umakant has stepped down from his post at the Dhrupad Sansthan, and 24-year-old Anant has taken his position. However, Anant refused to comment on this matter.

Umakant and Ramakant were awarded Padma Shri in 2012 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2017.

Dhrupad is the most ancient style of Hindustani classical vocal music.