• Attack on Carnatic Musicians: We Condemn Attempts to Limit and Stifle Free Expression

    Statement condemning the attack on classical musical expression in south India

    September 20, 2018

     A number of prominent artists and performers, former judges and bureaucrats, academicians, social activists, public intellectuals, journalists and other concerned citizens from various walks of life, have released a statement condemning the attacks on south Indian musicians for performing interfaith music at classical music concerts.

    The full statement:

    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.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


    First published in The Citizen.

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