Carnatic singer TM Krishna on Saturday (October 12) claimed there was “discrimination of arts and its practitioners” in cultural performances organised for Chinese president Xi Jinping during the India-China informal summit at Mamallapuram on Friday (October 11).
He said that classical performers were given the “respectful” proscenium stage while folk artistes performed at airports, waiting under the hot sun for the guest to arrive. He added that it wasn’t a celebration of Indian culture, but of “casteism.”
“From what I saw yesterday (Modi, Xi meeting) on news channels, it is clear that discrimination of the arts and its practitioners remain entrenched. While the so-called classical artistes were given the respectful proscenium stage the so-called folk artistes were performing at airports etc.” he tweeted.
“I also saw nadasvaram (wind instrument) artistes made to sit on a raised platform at the entrance of Grand Chola Hotel, where Xi was staying, waiting for him under the hot sun,” Krishna tweeted and posted on Facebook.
I also saw nadasvaram artists made to sit on a raised platform at the entrance of Grand Chola Hotel where Xi was staying waiting for him under the hot sun. This has been happening for decades and we say this is a celebration of Indian Culture. We are celebrating casteism
— T M Krishna (@tmkrishna) October 12, 2019
He also pointed out that there were some Bharatanatyam artistes present at the airport and said that this still doesn’t address the point he made.
Speaking to The Federal, he said that such discrimination is not new in India. “Art forms are also entrenched in caste structures. No art form is devoid of caste constructions. Therefore, art forms belonging to the upper sections of the society are automatically tagged as more privileged, called classical and claimed to be better. They become the representation of what we call Indian culture,” the 43-year-old singer said.
He said that even states like Tamil Nadu, which has spoken against the upper caste culture, has propagated the same to a large extent.
“So, this is a continuation of the same thing and therefore, only (Bharatanatyam) got a stage, in which dancers and musicians from Kalakshetra performed. Folk arts like Paraiyattam and Oyilattam were performed on the road. None of these art forms got a stage. Even nadasvaram artistes were made to wait on the platform. It is not limited to just BJP, but even the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu have let this constantly happen,” he added.
Folk artist R Velmurugan (Velu Aasan) said that art does not have any caste but people view it on caste lines. “Art is also like education. Whoever is educated is considered privileged. But, the government never views it in that way. Only if we were given an opportunity to perform, we will be able to showcase our art. But, we were never given a platform,” Velu Aasan said.
Commenting on the issue, Bharatanatyam dancer Devika Rao agreed with Krishna. “He has a point, but I don’t think it is deliberate casteism. They just followed discriminatory conventions,” Devika said.