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Reclaiming our Heritage: Concerned citizens statement condemning the attack on classical musical expression in south India

20 September 2018

print version of this article print version - 20 September 2018

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