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'An Occupational Hazard'

The former Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi argues that if the current chairperson 'were to be removed from office on the basis of emotive criticism or mere difference of opinion on matters of p

'An Occupational Hazard'
| File Photo
'An Occupational Hazard'
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Many thought that the 'detoxification drive' launched by the redoubtable HRD minister, which was responsible for the removal of Anupam Kher from the Censor Board,would also 'purge' Sonal Mansingh, the Chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. 

Barely had that controsversial speculation died down that the Akademi was once again in the news with the resignation of Carnatic maestro Balamuralikrishna from its executive board. Eminent theatre personality Kavalam Narayana Panikkar followed suit with his resignation as Vice-Chairman of the Akademi, both alleging high-handedness on the part of Chairperson Sonal Mansingh, arguing that the institution's future warranted that she step down as its head. 

Seven more resignations from eminent artistes followed, each blaming the "autocratic and undemocratic" behaviour of the Chairperson. Mansingh on her part argued: "I have imparted some kind of discipline in the Akademi. And the root cause for all these problems is that I have disturbed a nexus which was running the Akademi as its fiefdom." 

Pressure has been mounting for her removal, with more resignations and charges, but 23 artists have also written a letter to the culture minister Reddy saying they were extremely unhappy with the vilification campaign against Mansingh. The CPM meanwhile wants the government to intervene and the matter was even raised in the Lok Sabha today. 

Updates

Full text of the letter written by eminent theatre personality Girish Karnad, who was the chairman of the Akademi from 1988 to 1993, to the President of India

697, Fifteenth Cross Road
J.P.Nagar Phase II
Bangalore 560078
28 April 2005

The Honourable President of India

Dear Rashtrapatiji,

May I have your permission to trouble you about the distressing developments in the Sangeet Natak Akademi? I was the Chairman of the Akademi myself from 1988 to 1993 and have personal experience of some of the issues relevant to the present crisis.

I need scarcely dwell here on the extraordinarily rich work done by the Sangeet Natak Akademi since its inception. What I do wish to emphasize is that such rich productivity has been possible only because, once appointed, the Chairperson has been allowed to plan ahead for full five years and pursue a definite course of action under the supervision of the Governing Council, without any threat, hindrance or interference. 

Inevitably, many of these decisions prove unpalatable to individual members of the Council. And in such cases the accusation that the Chairperson is acting undemocratically or dictatorially is invariably raised. A Chairperson has to face such criticism and respond to it. 

Let me mention here that in my capacity as a Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, I too was accused in the Press of being dictatorial and high-handed. It is an occupational hazard of the post. 

Sonal Mansingh is one of the great artists of our time and I believe she has deserved the accolade of being appointed the Chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. 

But I am not talking about an individual here as about the future of this great Akademi itself. Once a person is appointed to this post, she or he should be removable only if proven guilty of criminal misdemeanour. If she or he were to be removed from office on the basis of emotive criticism or mere difference of opinion on matters of policy or on grounds of political affiliation, it will bring the Akademi to a grinding halt. Once such a tactic succeeds and authorities act upon it, it will become a precedent and every Chairperson in future will be threatened with it. In stead of acting fearlessly and with conviction, she or he will either have to yield to outside pressure or face harassment. I fear it will in fact destroy the very strengths which have made the Institution so unique.

Let me then end with the plea that not just Ms Mansingh but every Chairman in future, once appointed by the President, is trusted to look after the Akademi to the best of her or his ability for the full course of her or his term, without fear of removal or public humiliation. 

Yours faithfully,
Girish Karnad

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