Famous Indian music gurus accused of sexual assault

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Mumbai

Her discomfort and nervousness is palpable, even across the Zoom screen. Monica’s name has been changed to protect her identity because she fears reprisal. But she is keen to share her story.

She alleges that she was raped by the late Ramakant Gundecha, a famous classical Indian musician, while she was a student at his school, Dhrupad Sansthan, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Gundecha died in November 2019 but he and his brothers, Umakant and Akhilesh, have since been accused of sexual harassment and assault by female students of the music school.

Over the course of a three-month investigation, the BBC has heard multiple allegations against all three Gundecha brothers. Umakant and Akhilesh deny the allegations.

Ramakant was and Umakant still is a famous exponent of Dhrupad, one of the oldest genres of Hindustani music, while Akhilesh is a percussionist.

In 2012, Ramakant and Umakant received the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award for their contribution to music.

Dhrupad Sansthan, the prestigious school they founded and taught at, has attracted hundreds of students, foreign and Indian, from across the globe.

It claims to have accreditation from Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee.

But the Unesco told the BBC that it had no links to the school and said it will be sending a ‘cease and desist’ notice demanding the withdrawal of such claims.

The allegations against the brothers have sent shockwaves through the classical music world, where they enjoy fame and status. —Agencies

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