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Chennai’s Kalakshetra Foundation refuses to host TM Krishna’s book launch

CHENNAI : In a last minute decision, The Kalakshetra Foundation on Thursday withdrew permission to host popular Carnatic singer TM Krishna’s book launch event, which was originally scheduled to take place on their premises on February 2.

According to a letter from the Foundation, they withdrew permission to host the launch after reading an excerpt from the book which was published in an English daily on Thursday.

“The book review, which appeared in the newspaper, contains certain statements relating to the book which touch controversial issues and certainly has a lot of political overtones. We were unaware of the controversies surrounding the subject matter of the book at the time of renting our auditorium,” said the letter also copied to Krishna.

Being a government organisation, the Foundation said, it could not allow any programme that might instigate political, cultural and social disharmony. The Foundation faced backlash on social media on Thursday after it withdrew permission to host the event. Many artistes and writers took to Twitter to slam the decision.

Despite several attempts, Foundation director Revathi Ramachandran could not be reached for her comment. Krishna’s book titled ‘Sebastian and Sons’ speaks about the history of mridangam makers who have been making the instrument using cow hide for many generations.

TM Krishna to take ‘Sebastian and Sons’ to ACJ

The book speaks about how Dalit Christians deal with caste issues to finally deliver the instrument in this age and time. Responding to the issue, Magasasay awardee Krishna said he was deeply saddened by the Foundation’s decision.

He said those who must be celebrating this art are stopping others from even speaking about it. “What is the point of boasting about our rich heritage and culture when contributions of mridangam makers are ignored?” Krishna told reporters.

“People should understand that without cow skin, its impossible to make music from the mridangam. Some worship cows while some use the animal’s skin for making such instruments. Both are facts that cannot be ignored or refuted,” he said.

It can be recalled that in 2012, Krishna was nominated along with three other musicians to be part of the Foundation’s board. Through his Twitter account, Krishna later said the venue for the book launch has been changed to Asian College of Journalism and would take place on Sunday at the same time.

“We are more than happy to host the book launch. Cows’ skin has been used to make mridangam for decades. This is nothing new. After the animal has died, its skin is being used to make an instrument which makes beautiful music. This fact should be appreciated and not shunned,” said Sashi Kumar, chairman of ACJ.

Chidambaram MP and VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan took to Twitter to say, “Kalashektra humiliates not just TM Krishna but Dalits too. TM Krishna’s book has nothing controversial, but throws light on what exists in the society.” Thirumavalavan and historian Rajmohan Gandhi, who is the grandson of Gandhi and Rajaji, are scheduled to release the book on Febuary 2.