16 February 2019 11:41 PM



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

Statement condemning the attack on classical musical expression in south India

A number of prominent artists and performers, former judges and bureaucrats, academics, 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