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Friday, June 9, 2023

Muslim dancer who tried to enter prohibited area in Srirangam temple accused of sexual harassment

A Muslim classical dancer and member of the ruling DMK party has been accused of sexually harassing female dance teachers. The DMK government had appointed him as the advisor to Government Arts Schools across the state after he was caught in a controversy for trying to enter a prohibited zone in Srirangam Ranganatha Swamy temple.

Zakir Hussain, a Muslim by birth has learned Tamil Nadu’s classical dance form Bharatanatyam. He claims himself to be a Vaishnava and an ardent devotee of Sri Ranganatha Swamy. But he mingles with Periyarists who are dead against Hindu dharma. He has used the gau mutra jibe to denigrate Hindus and mock PM Modi.

In December 2021, he was stopped by temple activist Rangarajan Narasimhan while trying to trespass into the prohibited zone of Srirangam Ranganatha Swamy temple. Being under the control of the government, almost all temples in TN allow non Hindus inside the temple. But they are allowed to access only till the outer prahara of the Garbha Griha. HRCE itself had placed a board in major temples saying non-Hindus are barred from entering beyond a point.

So Narasimhan had stopped Hussain only in line with this rule. However Hussain made a lot of noise about the issue claiming that he was manhandled. The DMK government came to his rescue as the HRCE minister himself said that “temple affairs shouldn’t be approached based on religion”. Not long after this incident took place Hussain was appointed as the Artistic Advisor to the government Musical and Dance schools in 16 districts across the state.

Now complaints of sexual harassment have risen accusing him of misusing his post to misbehave with female teachers. One of them has written to the director of the Arts and Culture Department revealing that she is having suicidal thoughts since the day she was sexually harassed by Zakir Hussain. He visited the school in Karur district on February 28.

The letter says, “I come from a traditional musical family. I’m working in the Karur government music school. Artistic Advisor Zakir Hussain came to our school on February 28 for inspection. He insulted me in front of everyone during the inspection. Then he called me to the office of the Head Mistress and misbehaved with me.”

Feeling disgusted she has been having suicidal thoughts since then and mentioned it in the letter as well. She accused him of touching her inappropriately on the pretext of showing her how to dance and made degrading remarks about fellow female teachers as well. He reportedly told her that she should be “trained” by him in the upcoming Skill Development Training Camp exclusively for female dancers.

The Association of Government Music School Teachers has revealed that he harassed women in other schools as well. The organisation has lodged a complaint with the director of the department that he sexually harassed women working in Karur, Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga music schools. It has also alleged that despite filing complaints earlier, the department has started inquiry only after the issue was reported by the media. 

In the midst of this issue Zakir Hussain was made to be part of the artists team that went along with CM MK Stalin to perform in Dubai. He could be seen posing with the CM as if he was the centre of attraction. While no departmental investigation has been initiated, the training camp is set to continuing which has shocked the teachers. But Karur District Collector has ordered an inquiry into the issue and RDO visited the school and enquired the complainant and others.

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