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Kerala Human Rights Commission initiates case on racist remarks by Mohiniyattam dancer

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Mohiniyattam dancers Kalamandalam Sathyabhama and RLV Ramakrishnan

Mohiniyattam dancers Kalamandalam Sathyabhama and RLV Ramakrishnan (File image)

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala State Human Rights Commission here on Friday initiated a case against Kalamandalam Satyabhama junior, a senior Mohiniyattam dancer, over her controversial racist remarks allegedly against a fellow artist on a YouTube channel.

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State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) member V K Beena Kumari directed the Thrissur district police chief and the government's Secretary for Culture to look into the statement by the dancer and submit a report within 15 days, a statement issued by the Commission said.

The action was taken by the Commission on its own based on media reports, it said, adding that a human rights activist Guinness Madasamy had also filed a complaint on the same issue.

As the video of the racial remarks by Satyabhama went viral on social media and was aired on news channels on Thursday, noted Mohiniyattam dancer Dr RLV Ramakrishnan had alleged that her comments were directed at him, and threatened to initiate legal action against her.

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The video and her subsequent statements defending what she had said were severely criticised by many on social media, cutting across political lines.

Ministers Saji Cheriyan, R Bindu, Veena George, Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly V D Satheesan, and BJP state chief K Surendran, among others, had condemned the statement.

The Kerala Kalamandalam, a premier public institution that preserves Kerala's artistic heritage, had also condemned Sathyabhama's remarks.

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On Friday, Sreekumaran Thampi -- a renowned Indian lyricist, music director, director, producer, and screenwriter in Malayalam cinema -- said that she was not eligible to carry the moniker 'Kalamandalam Satyabhama' which was a well-respected name.

"Kalamandalam Satyabhama was one of the biggest gurus of Mohiniyattam seen in Kerala. She (Kalamandalam Satyabhama junior) was a student under the actual Kalamandalam Satyabhama. This lady should not have taken that name," Thampi told a news channel.

The actual Kalamandalam Satyabhama was an Indian classical dancer, teacher and choreographer, known for her performances and scholarship in Mohiniyattam. She died in September 2015 at the age of 77.

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Meanwhile, actor-cum-politician Suresh Gopi, who is contesting in the coming Lok Sabha polls from Thrissur as a BJP candidate, today said that on March 28 there is a 'cherup' -- a religious ritual -- at the temple frequented by his family in Kollam and he will invite Ramakrishnan to perform Mohiniyattam there if the artist was available on that date.

Subsequently, Ramakrishnan was seen on TV talking on the phone with Gopi who was heard inviting the artist to perform at the temple on March 28 and the dancer accepted the invitation.

In the purported interview, Sathyabhama had said, "The person who performs Mohiniyattam should be 'Mohini' (enchanting). He has the colour of a crow. This is an art form that requires a stance that keeps the legs wide apart. There is nothing more repulsive than a man who performs with his legs wide apart in this manner.

"In my opinion, men should perform Mohiniyattam only if they are that good-looking...But his looks are unbearable." Sathyabhama, however, had not specified whom she was referring to.

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