Reclaiming our Heritage: Statement condemning the attack on classical musical expression in south India

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
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.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.Brijesh Kumar
81. Anjali Banerji
82.Radha Gopalan
83.Ishrat Aziz
84.Nagal Samy
85. Niranjan Pant
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

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