90 Complaints Of Sexual Abuse At Chennai Arts Academy: Women’s Panel Chief
Ninety complaints of sexual abuse and harassment of students at Chennai’s Kalakshetra, a prestigious institution for classical arts, were received by the chief of the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women, she told NDTV on Friday, following a five-hour inquiry on the campus, as students staged protests demanding justice.
The complaints include sexual abuse and sexual harassment of female and male students by a faculty member and three repertory artists, AR Kumari told NDTV.
“Complaints include sexual abuse of both girls and boys. I met 12 one-on-one, including six via Zoom. Earlier, I addressed all, giving them a sense of confidence to open up. I will give a report to the state government,” she said.
Asked whether there were attempts by the Kalakshetra Foundation to cover up the issue, she said, “Both the Director and the Deputy Director weren’t available. The Principal couldn’t give any information.”
The Kalakshetra Foundation, which runs the institution, had earlier denied the allegations and called them a disinformation campaign. The National Commission for Women had also dismissed the charges as baseless. However, Ms Kumari said she did not think the students were trying to defame Kalakshetra, but were only accusing individuals.
The students allege that they have faced years of sexual harassment, body-shaming, verbal abuse and discrimination based on their skin colour at Kalakshetra. They also allege that the administration has been indifferent and unresponsive to their complaints. On Thursday, they wrote to the Union Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy and the Chief Minister MK Stalin, seeking the removal of Director Revathi Ramachandran for alleged inaction and the reconstitution of the internal complaints committee.
Mr Stalin said in the assembly that no written complaints had been received yet, but that the revenue and police departments were investigating the matter. “Legal action will be taken against whoever is found guilty,” he said, also tacitly suggesting a flip-flop by the National Commission for Women for first seeking action on the issue and then putting brakes on it.
Kalakshetra Foundation, founded in 1936 by dancer Rukmini Devi Arundale, is an institute of national importance that offers courses in Bharatanatyam dance, Carnatic music and other traditional arts. It is known for its high standards of excellence and discipline and has produced many eminent artists over the decades.
The sexual harassment scandal has shaken the institution and its alumni, who have expressed solidarity with the students and their dismay over the handling of the issue. Some prominent artists, such as singer TM Krishna, have also spoken out against Kalakshetra’s response and called for a thorough investigation.