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Kalakshetra ‘sexual harassment’ row: Amid calls for their suspension, 4 dancers called back from Hyderabad event

The teachers, who were set to play key characters in a production of Valmiki’s Ramayana in Hyderabad, were called back to Chennai after day-long protests by students.

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Hyderabad/New Delhi: Four dancers from Chennai’s Kalakshetra, including an assistant professor accused of sexual harassment, will not be performing at the Ramayana Kalpavrksam event in Hyderabad amid demands for their immediate dismissal, ThePrint has learnt. 

Sources in the organising committee, as well as students part of the contingent, confirmed that the schedule was changed at the last minute. A 44-member orchestra was set to perform Choodamani Pradhanam right after the inauguration of the event at the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training (CCRT), Madhapur in Hyderabad. 

However, the schedule has now been changed since the accused play the roles of Hanuman, Lakshman, Sugriva and Vibhishana in the dance drama. 

Ananda Shankar Jayant, the organiser of the event, told ThePrint that there has been “a change of plans” but did not say if the four dancers have left for Chennai or not. 

The contingent will now perform Vitasta, a story of a river in Kashmir, two repertory members confirmed to ThePrint. “We don’t know if the (accused) dancers have left or not, but they won’t be performing with us,” a repertory member said. The story of a river in Kashmir though, is a bit off-topic since the event is a three-day-long retelling of the Ramayana

“We have been informed that four of the team members have been called back to Chennai. They were set to play key characters in the performance and without them, Choodamani Pradhanam cannot be performed, so we’ve decided that we would perform Vitasta — a Kashmir river. We had already performed it in the past in Chennai,” a team member told ThePrint on condition of anonymity.

“The members were called back because they are facing an inquiry on the allegations of sexual harassment. We were told Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women was conducting an inquiry and these people cannot leave Chennai at this time, which is why they were called back,” the team member said, adding that the four could have left for Chennai on an afternoon flight.

Choodamani Pradhanam is one of Kalakshetra’s flagship productions and is a depiction of a few parts of Valmiki’s Ramayana

The Ramayana Kalpavrksam in Hyderabad, where Kalakshetra’s team is performing, is a three-day art and culture festival hosting various artists from different cities.  

Also Read: Kalakshetra ‘sexual harassment’ row: College closed till 6 April after students protest

Students submit charter of demands

On Thursday, students of Chennai’s Rukmini Devi College for Fine Arts, Kalakshetra Foundation sat on a silent strike in the campus which continued till late at night.

They also formed a union, put forth four demands to the administration and refused to call off the protest till their demands were met. The students’ charter of demand includes immediate dismissal of Hari Padman, assistant professor at Kalakshetra, as well as of repertory members Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan and Sreenath. 

ThePrint reached Hari Padman via calls and Whatsapp messages but did not receive a response by the time of publication. This report will be updated when a response is received.

All of the accused have written letters to the Ministry of Culture, denying the allegations levelled against them and alleging that they have been implicated because of toxic politics on the Kalakshetra campus. 

Protesters further demanded acknowledgement of the students’ union as a body working for the welfare of students, immediate stop to alleged verbal and sexual harassment and bodyshaming at the Kalakshetra foundation, as well as immediate ouster of the present counsellor. 

In the meantime, Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women chairperson A.S. Kumari reached the campus Friday and told ThePrint that the commission will be conducting an inquiry into the allegations. “I will speak to students privately because such stories are difficult to tell in public,” she told ThePrint over the phone.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin also assured action against perpetrators in the state legislative assembly. “The government is conducting a proper investigation into the matter and if the charges are confirmed, legal action will be taken against whoever is at fault. It will be taken compulsorily,” Stalin was quoted as saying Friday.

Allegations of sexual harassment at Kalakshetra gained national attention after ThePrint published a report on 21 March about harassment on campus by ‘the most influential man on campus’. According to students, post publishing, at least four more students have written to the internal committee, alleging molestation by senior repertory dancers. 

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: TM Krishna criticises Kalakshetra’s ‘aggressive’ response to sexual harassment complaints, calls it ‘unbecoming’


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