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Terrorism on Kathak
- Navina Jafa

February 10, 2013

Ms Ratnam, with due respect to your efforts, I wish to bring to light the severe attempts to divert from the main issue related to Kathak. The national centre of Kathak dance, Kathak Kendra, was forced to move into an area in North Delhi where when the women associated with the institute go to learn, teach or work, are stalked, eve teased and sexually harassed. I personally saw this with my own eyes while I traveled from the Metro to the campus. As a public concerned citizen where security of women is a question I wish not to further dwell on something as the dupatta issue but a serious question of attempts to marginalize the dance by forcing the relocation of the center.

This decision to shift was not needed since a land was bought in the name of the Kathak Kendra in South Delhi in 1994, a building was constructed and a bhumi puja was performed by Kathak gurus. When the decision to shift the Kendra to this unsuitable location was taken the gurus requested to stall the decision; and a cultural advocacy group Kalavati wrote to secretary culture Jawahar Sircar and the present chairman SNA, an email in April 2011. This was circulated to many of us alerting the concerned authorities that security and unhygienic conditions is not conducive for the National Center of Kathak Dance, Kathak Kendra. However the chairperson wrote to the advocacy group that the new location will be an ashram and was ideal for the dance and members of the advocacy group should visit it (which they had already done).

On a later occasion the present Chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi in a public gathering at the Akademi related to archiving, declared that the building in Chanakyapuri will be now a Museum for Performing Arts. Kathak Kendra was the first government dance institution post independence and even 50 years after independence it does not have its own land. How unfair and callous of cultural administrators! Why is not an immediate order being given for the Kendra to start classes in its new building? Is the administration and management waiting for a rape to happen?

I will also want to bring into public, since I am part of that public in a democratic state, why did the chairman of the Akademi write to me (addressing me as a mere teacher, not guru. I am sure that transmitters of other traditions would resent this address, we are not running tuition classes) that teachers like me should host the girls in residence in Kathak Kendra in our houses? How utterly ridiculous.

May I speak quite forthrightly? If this is not a cultural terrorism or may I say Cultural Dictatorship, then what is it? In my opinion, the Akademi without any further delay shift the students in residence back to former premises in Bhawalpur House, start classes in the training building in Chanakyapuri which is in the secure pristine diplomatic enclave, employ ferry services and certainly assure and inform us public and many concerned women organizations about its proactive sincere intentions. Let them not wait for a rape to happen, God Forbid. May I also request the entire Kathak community to come together stand together for the right of the tradition which is attacked.

May I also request the media and the women's organizations to examine the careless attitude adopted by a public organization in a democratic state. In my personal view as a humble concerned citizen, this is ruthless terrorism on Kathak. Thank you, Ms. Ratnam, for bringing the issue of cultural terrorism in public discussion.

Humbly yours
Navina Jafa

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