Kerala art body under fire after Dalit dancer’s suicide bid over alleged discrimination
The Kerala Sangeeth Natak Academy, a state government-controlled apex body of artists, finds itself mired in a controversy after a suicide bid by a Dalit classical dancer who was allegedly denied permission to perform ‘Mohiniyattam’ as part of the academy’s online cultural festival.
The male dancer is undergoing treatment in a hospital after he overdosed sleeping pills on Saturday. The opposition Congress and BJP have asked the government to act against the academy chairperson and secretary under the provisions of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Police recovered a note purportedly written by the dancer in which he said that he was denied the opportunity because he belonged to a lower caste.
Kerala’s culture minister AK Balan has sought a report from the academy.
“It is sad it happened under Left rulers who often speak about renaissance and cultural reform. We all know he is a committed dancer devoted his whole life to the dance. He was insulted by denying an opportunity to perform. The government is answerable for this grave injustice,” said Union minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan in a Facebook post.
Congress leader Pandalam Sudhakaran also sought action against academy office-bearers. “They talk big about Dalits but treat them like outcasts,” he said.
The dancer’s family members said the academy had rejected his application saying that male members can’t perform ‘Mohiniyattam,’ a classical dance form from of Kerala usually performed by women. But they said male dancers had performed the dance earlier and he was denied an opportunity due to his caste.
But academy secretary Radhakrishnan Nair denied reports the academy rejected his application. “The academy has so far scheduled items like Thullal, Kathakali, Chenda and Mizhavu performances. Its experts in each field select dance forms and they are yet to take a call on other dance forms ,” he said.
Academy chairperson K P A C Lalitha, a film and theatre actor, was not available for her comments.
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