The Dhrupad Sansthan, a prominent music school in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal city, said that it has formed a committee to look into the allegations of sexual misconduct against two of its teachers – brothers Akhilesh Gundecha and Ramakant Gundecha. Akhilesh Gundecha has stepped down from his position at the institute.
Ramakant Gundecha died of a heart attack last year. He and his brother Umakant gained prominance singing as the Gundecha brothers. Akhilesh Gundecha, another of the brothers, is a pakhawaj player.
In a statement on September 3, the Dhrupad Sansthan said that creating a safe learning environment for students was its top priority. “To make sure that everyone at Dhrupad Sansthan feels safe, we have instituted an internal committee for prevention and redressal of all issues,” the institution said. “This committee shall be the primary point of contact for any and all issues related to the safety of women. The committee will strive to deliver justice without prejudice.”
It added: “In light of the allegations levelled against him, without dwelling into the merits of these allegations, Akhilesh Gundecha has voluntarily withdrawn himself from all the activities of Dhrupad Sansthan.”
The allegations against the Gundechas were first levelled by a yoga teacher from Amsterdam in a post on Facebook, according to The Indian Express. The woman had written the post on behalf of a friend. “We [some students] have been prisoners of this silence for fear of reprisals, for fear of your judgments, for believing the threatening words Ramakant and Akhilesh Gundecha would say to keep us silent,” the post read. “Fortunately enough, things are starting to change worldwide… They would threaten us saying they always get what they want and won’t accept ‘No’ as an answer.”
The post went on to say that the students were told the they would get into trouble for saying no to the gurus. They were told the they had to “give in if they ever wanted to have a career in music”, the post alleged.
A student training under Akhilesh Gundecha told The Indian Express that everyone at the institute knew about the incidents of sexual harassment but were too scared to speak up. “We knew some of our female friends were feeling disturbed but everyone was too scared to speak up,” the student said. “No one wants their careers ended.”
Several others members of the music industry were called out when the #MeToo movement gained strength in India in 2018. In October that year, the Madras Music Academy had dropped seven musicians against whom allegations of sexual harassment were made.