"I pushed him away but he kept trying."
Several female students have alleged that they were sexually assaulted by the Gundecha brothers, renowned for Indian classical music, specifically Dhrupad.
One student at the school, Dhrupad Sansthan in Madhya Pradesh, claimed that she was raped by the late Ramakant Gundecha.
He died in November 2019 but he and his brothers, Umakant and Akhilesh, have since been accused of sexual harassment and assault by female students of the music school.
Despite numerous allegations, Umakant and Akhilesh deny them.
The brothers founded Dhrupad Sansthan and the school had attracted students across the world.
It claimed to have accreditation from Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee.
However, Unesco said it had no links to the school and will be sending a ‘cease and desist’ notice demanding the withdrawal of such claims.
Allegations against the brothers range from sharing flirtatious and sexually suggestive messages to exposing themselves during lessons and molestation. In the case of Ramakant, rape.
The student was in her first week at the school when she began receiving inappropriate messages from Ramakant.
She alleged that one evening, he drove her to a dark car park and molested her.
She said: “He started kissing me. I pushed him away but he kept trying.
“He touched my body and tried to unclothe me. At that time, I realised I was not moving. I was like a stone.
“At one point he realised that I was not responding.
“So he asked me, should I drop you back at the school? But I couldn’t even reply.”
The student said she wanted to erase the memory of the incident. She did not leave the school straightaway because she loved the music and was eager to pursue it further.
She had quit her job and invested all her savings to study at the school.
However, three months later, Ramakant allegedly raped her.
She told the BBC: “[He] entered the room, pulled my pants off and forcefully had sex with me.
“And when he had finished he just left. I went to the door and bolted it. And for three days, I didn’t eat.”
Another student claimed she was sexually assaulted by Akhilesh.
She explained: “I got sick when I was there and was hospitalised.
“Akhilesh came to take me back to the school. He sat next to me in the car and started touching my hands. I pulled them away. It felt very strange.”
In total, five female students alleged that they had seen abuse and harassment at Dhrupad Sansthan.
Some said that when they resisted Ramakant’s sexual advances, he lost interest in teaching them.
They also claimed that if a student complained, she was usually publicly humiliated in class.
US-based Rachel Fairbanks said she was abused on her first day in March 2017.
She claimed a campus driver cornered her after dropping off her luggage in her room.
Rachel explained: “I thought he was going to hurt me. So I asked Ramakant to step in.”
But she alleged that he instead began molesting her. He allegedly tried to kiss her.
According to Rachel, Ramakant repeatedly texted her, professing her love.
She alleged that on one occasion, Ramakant drove her to an abandoned field at night, pulled her trousers down and touched her vagina.
Rachel said: “I pushed him off. He drove me back to a small town, which is right outside of the school.
“And then I had to walk back in the dark through the town and through the fields, back to the school.
“I left the school soon after that happened. I couldn’t even sit in Ramakant’s presence anymore.”
Rachel, who waived anonymity, said she spoke out against the abuse after several similar allegations came to light in a Facebook post in September 2020.
Both Akhilesh and Umakant Gundecha denied the allegations, claiming that “vested interests” from outside the student community were attempting to “further their agenda of causing damage to the art and reputation of the Gundecha Brothers and Dhrupad Sansthan”.
An internal complaints committee is investigating the allegations.
However, the findings cannot be made public by law.
According to students, the committee at Dhrupad Sansthan was formed only after they put pressure on the school to do so.
Ex-students, who are part of a support group for victims, have claimed that they have been threatened for speaking out in support.
Rachel said there was no point in the investigation if its findings could not be made public.
She explained that her experience also resulted in the end of her relationship with Dhrupad.
“I have my tanpura in the living room right now and it’s going to be sold.
“I, unfortunately, can’t sing without having flashbacks.”