Statement condemning the attack on classical musical expression in south India #FOE

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.”

 

STATEMENT

 

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

Related posts