#MeToo Movement: The Gundecha Brothers allegations

Allegations of sexual assault have been made against the late Ramakant Gundecha by former pupils of the Dhrupad Sansthan Music School in central India. The two brothers, Umakant and Akhilesh have also faced allegations by female students of the school, which was owned by Ramakant; allegations have been denied by the brothers.

Students have been drawn from all over the world to study at Dhrupad Sansthan as a prestigious and accredited music school, made all the more desirable due to the found fame of owner Ramakant and brother Umakant within the Hindustani music world. The news of the allegations has therefore shaken the community with the brothers previously being known inspirations for many aspiring young musicians.

Initially one female former pupil of Ramakant came forward but has continued to use a false name to protect her identity. It was alleged that whilst she was a pupil at the school, Ramakant sent inappropriate Whatsapp messages during her first week and later drove her to a dark car park where he molested her, and months later she was raped. The distress caused was exacerbated by the victim’s commitment to her music studies – she had left her job and invested all of her money into the school.

Since the reporting of these allegations and after the death of Ramakent in November 2019, further women who were former pupils of the school have come forward with allegations against all three brothers. The allegations consist of harassment, sexual assault and against Ramakant, rape. The women have also stated that those who complained would often be publically humiliated in the classroom.

The two brothers of Ramakant, Umakant and Akliesh have denied all allegations and have stated that “vested interests” from outside the student community were trying to “further their agenda of causing damage to the art and reputation of the Gundecha Brothers and Dhrupad Sansthan”.

The women have stated that at present they simply want closure for the abuse suffered and for the Gundecha Brothers to be held accountable. Although a panel has been set up to investigate the allegations in line with Indian law, members of the group who provide support to the survivors of the abuse have received threats for speaking out / supporting those who have made allegations.

In light of the reports of abuse, many musicians have commented on how the teacher-student relationship within the music industry can be an easy vehicle for exploitation. Neela Baghwat, a vocalist, expressed that the “guru (teacher) expects complete submission…from the student” and that “if it’s a female student, the surrender is more. I think this makes female students very vulnerable.”

The Gundecha brother have failed thus far to make a public apology and the conclusion of the committee’s findings is awaited.

Written by Nicole Clough at BLM (nicole.clough@blmlaw.com)

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