Recalling Leela Samson’s Sultanate of Unaccountability at Kalakshetra: The Impossibility of Undoing Cultural Destruction
Notes On Culture

Recalling Leela Samson’s Sultanate of Unaccountability at Kalakshetra: The Impossibility of Undoing Cultural Destruction

Recalling how Leela Samson de-Hinduised Kalakshetra Foundation and Christianised Bharatanatyam and faces a CBI inquiry for corruption and criminal conspiracy

Sandeep Balakrishna

Sandeep Balakrishna

During the course of a recent research, I came across a news item datelined May 6, 2020 that reported that the infamous Leela Samson was appointed the head of the jury JCB Prize for Literature for 2020. Ever since the racist White Mughal, William Dalrymple heralded the expensive racketeering known as the Jaipur Literature Festival, a whole new slew, a multimillion dollar marketplace of subterranean Left-Liberal political auctioneering has been inaugurated.

JCB appointing Leela Samson is quite appropriate, a great, real-life example of the literary principle known as auchitya (suitability, fitness, decorum). JCB is synonymous with demolition and wrecking equipment, and Leela Samson is the grave-digger of Sanatana cultural traditions. A near-perfect marriage. Her appointment is just the latest instance of a Far Left phenomenon we’re all familiar with: a vast, vile ecosystem that has been primed to provide job security, post-retirement benefits and rehabilitation of members who have either lost lucrative jobs or are facing disgrace.

Let’s not forget that Leela Samson is facing a CBI inquiry on charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy for her unhinged rampage in her position as the former director of Kalakshetra Foundation. She has almost singlehandedly destroyed a glorious institution that had nurtured some of the best of Sanatana classical dance forms.

Priyanka Vadra Dances to Leela Samson’s Christian Beats

Like others of her ilk especially in the sphere of art and culture, Leela Samson’s rise was swift and meteoric under the two-term demonic UPA Government. At her peak, she held as many as six key positions including Chairperson of CBFC, Director of Kalakshetra Foundation, and Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi among others. The bevy of these goodies of officialdom that she enjoyed with such impunity owes to the fact that she was also the dance tutor to Priyanka Vadra. Wonder what she learned. The disco moves of an alleged Holy Ghost, perhaps.

These positions are merely ornamental and thoroughly vacuous in the arterio-sclerotic Congress scheme of things but they exude real power in unimaginable dimensions. In fundamental ways, they set the politicised cultural agenda and own the master keys that unlock patronage and generous amounts of funding. And when they act in harmonious concert with the moth-eaten babudom, the overall impact is tremendous. The extent of corruption and venality in the artistic sphere rivals that in the more visible areas such as the PWD, revenue, etc. But the blinding razzmatazz of glamour and dance and sound and light is a highly effective weapon of concealment.

Leela Samson's Self-Evident Hindu Hatred

And so, now is a good time as any to briefly recall the wreckage that she inflicted on Hindu culture and art.Her closeness with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi apart, Leela Samson’s hatred for Hinduism is a self-evident proof whose roots lie in her devout Catholicism, which is canonically bigoted against Hindus. Banning the Murti of Nataraja on stage in Bharatanatyam performances and ripping out the Vigraha of Ganesha in the Kalakshetra campus are just the outward manifestations of her incurable revulsion towards Hinduism. The most high-profile instance that displayed her hostility towards Hinduism, Hindu Gods, traditions, arts, and worship is this hurt response by Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravishankar in 2006. The 20 December 2006 issue of the Tamil Weekly Ananda Vikatan reports:

"Can we separate Hindu religion & Bharathanaatyam" - when Sri Sri Ravishankar asked this question… we could feel how much his mind is wounded by the episode. For the 'Health and Bliss' religious course conducted by him in Chennai at Anna University Ground from 5th to 8th December 2006, the response was beyond compare… "The lady right from the day of taking over as Director of this foundation has been spreading anti- Hindu views among the students. We should really appreciate the lady for her narrow mentality. Just as Christmas Carol songs and Pope cannot be separated, Hindu religion and Bharathanatyam cannot be separated. When this great art of Bharathanaatyam was aired in Samskar Channel for the world to view its greatness, non-participation of Kalakshtha students as per the orders of the Christian lady is only a loss to the foundation and not to the art" said Sri Sri Ravishankar. [Emphasis added]

A laundry list of allegations of Hindu-baiting by Leela Samson is available here. Perhaps nothing is more shameful than in the manner in which she uprooted the hallowed traditions of Bharatanatyam at Kalakshetra set by its founder Rukminidevi Arundale steeped in the loftiest spiritual and philosophical traditions of Sanatana Dharma and Bharata’s Natyashastra. For even gorier details on this topic, one is referred to the brilliant work, Breaking India coauthored by Aravindan Neelakandan.

Pervasive Samsonite Corruption at Kalakshetra

Apart from the cultural demolition at Kalakshetra, Leela Samson has also inflicted economic damage on it, for which the CBI has now charged her. Quantifiable crimes are relatively easier to detect. Cultural crimes belong in the realm of our Inner Life and even after detection, it is almost impossible to undo them.

It is interesting to read the 2010-11 report of the office of the Principal Accountant General (Civil Audit) of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, which uncovered extraordinary financial irregularities at Kalakshetra. This report, read with replies to RTI queries filed by concerned citizens from the Office of the Principal Accountant General (Civil Audit) reveals stunning shenanigans that transpired under her tenure.

Long story short, these findings can be classified under the heads of financial irregularities, brazen lack of due process and nepotism during her long tenure as Director of Kalakshetra. We can look at some brief highlights to get an overall picture of the sultanate of unaccountability that Leela Samson ran there.

Twisting Rules to Appoint Favourites

In 2011, a Writ of Mandamus, WP No. 8282/2011 was filed in the Madras High Court against Kalakshetra alleging irregularities. Further, based on RTI replies obtained from the CAG’s regional office in Chennai, a clearer picture of the goings-on in Kalakshetra emerged. The CAG’s reply dated 13 January 2012 is an extract from its 2011 audit report of Kalakshetra. Paragraph 7/IIA reads:

During June 2010, Kalakshetra Foundation had made 16 appointments under 9 categories. These appointments were found to be irregular. Only 6 appointments under 3 categories had the approval of the Ministry. The Committee set up for making these appointments did not have the full quorum as prescribed. In respect of the other 10 posts under 9 categories, the approval of the Ministry had not been obtained.

Further, the post of Assistant Professor has to be filled by promotion. However, the same had been filled up by Direct Recruitment which was not in order. [Emphasis added]

The following list gives a representative picture of how recruitment rules were flouted at Kalakshetra during Leela Samson’s tenure:

  • Posts which were abolished by the Ministry of Culture’s order dated 22 December 2008 were created and filled with people recommended by Leela Samson on 28 February 2010. (Pp 40-42, 43-53, 54-56, and 57)

  • Significant number of recruitments were made in violation of rules (Pp 106-109)

  • Appointing contract workers in violation of recruitment rules (PP 171-187)

  • Most such recruitments made during her tenure have been challenged in the Central Administrative Tribunal (OA number 431/2011).

  • Granting age relaxation arbitrarily, and without assigning any explanation or reason (Pp 107).

When 53 Years is Lesser than 25 Years: P.L. Banumurthy

On 20 January 2009, the Proceedings of the Selection Committee recommended the name of P.L. Banumurthy for appointment as the Foreman (Group C) to the Craft and Education Centre at Kalakshetra. The Stipulation in the Kalakshetra Recruitment Regulations, 2005 puts the upper limit of the candidate’s age at 25 years and educational qualification at Class Ten. P.L. Banumurthy’s age was 53 years when he applied and was subsequently appointed!

Getting a Driving Licence a Day Before the Interview

Here’s another sample. This time from the Proceedings of the Selection Committee convened on 21 January 2009.

We have A. Sakthivel’s appointment as “Driver Mechanic,” a Group C post. The qualification required per rules [THE GAZETTE OF INDIA: EXTRAORDINARY, PART II—SEC 3(i) published by Ministry OF LAW, JUSTICE AND COMPANY AFFAIRS on 4 January 1994]:

  • Upper age limit of 30 years

  • 10th Standard pass with a valid driver’s license for Heavy Motor Vehicles,

  • Five years of driving experience, and “should have good knowledge of vehicle maintenance and be able to attend to Minor repairs, etc”.

The reality: Sakthivel’s actual age: 35 years. He obtained a HMV driving licence only a day before the interview (Pp: 20 of the RTI reply. Emphasis added).

We’re not done yet.

Tinkering with the Letterhead

Let’s examine the Kalakshetra Foundation’s letterhead related to recruitments in 2010. On 8 June 2010, on exactly one day, a whopping twelve appointments are made to various positions at Kalakshetra. A common theme of all these appointments is the physical absence of the member Sriram Panchu in the Selection Committee. The names of all the three Committee members—Leela Samson, S.V. Venkateshaiah and Sriram Panchu—are printed on the Kalakshetra letterhead pertaining to the said appointments. However, in the absence of Sriram Panchu, the name of T.S. Murthi is included in handwriting and he is designated “co-opted member—C.A.O., K.F.” While this in itself doesn’t mean something is amiss, it is enough to raise suspicion given the number of appointments made on a single day.

“Records not Produced”

The next item in the CAG’s RTI reply pertains to pervasive financial irregularities at Kalakshetra [Inspection Report on transaction audit for the year 2011. Report No. 28 — 76/2011-12].

Part I D of the report carries the Summary of Objections:

Part II A

1. AUDIT OBSERVATION ON AWARD OF CONTRACT WITH M/S. MADHU AMBAT PRODUCTIONS, CHENNAI- 3.90 CRORE.

2. RENOVATION OF HOSTEL KITCHEN - EXECUTION OF WORK WITHOUT FOLLOWING ESTABLISHED TENDER PROCEDURES - 0.92 CRORE

3. UPGRADATION OF SOUND SYSTEM - SUPPLY EAW AND AUDIX PRODUCTS - 0.63 CRORE.

4. PURCHASE OF SOUND & LIGHTING EQUIPMENTS AT A COST OF 99.50 LAKH KEPT IDLE DUE TO DEFICIENT PLANNING PROCUREMENT PROCEDURE

5. KOOTHAMBALAM – ADDITIONS, ALTERATIONS OF CIVIL WORKS

6. TENDER PROCEDURE

7. APPOINTMENTS MADE IN THE FOUNDATION [for details, see the foregoing paragraphs]

PART II B

8. RECORDS NOT PRODUCED

The report then records in meticulous detail the kind of financial irregularities under each head. A few excerpts will suffice to give a representative idea as to the nature of this corruption:

..it is clearly indicated that Kalakshetra Foundation had been procuring sound equipments and lighting equipments for Koothambalam theature since July 2010 onwards kept idle in stores and shown in the accounts as: work in progress. [Pp 14]

In the case of M/s Madhu Ambat Productions, two agreements were entered with it on the same day but only one agreement was brought to the notice of the Kalakshetra Board. But that’s the least of it. Here’s the truly damning detail that the CAG report uncovers:

The stamp papers No. E 768088 purchased on 03.09.2006 was from Madurai from a vendor without registration number and agreement was entered into on 25th October 2006. However the stamp paper No. A 227226 purchased from a registered vendor (No.44/17 80/B 3/96 MSK) purchased on 25.10.2006 was from Chennai for the agreement entered into with the same agency on the same date. The extraneous reason for purchase of stamp paper from Madurai for the contracts to be entered on the same date with the same agency with different witnesses may be elucidated to audit. [Pp 7. Emphasis added]

Quite obviously, we have no information about whether Leela Samson or other eminences at Kalakshetra bothered to elucidate anything to the CAG. Nor did they offer any explanation as to the rationale behind selecting Madhu Ambat Productions without following due process. Let’s read the CAG report further:

The Foundation did not explore the possibilities of finding experienced production houses ln the field of making documentaries in the pretext that the work like this had to be exempted from routine tender procedures as these are “Specialised in nature"..it is to be pointed out it was the responsibility of the Kalakshetra to provide the troupe, the stage…necessary for enactment of the said dramas…M/s. Madhu Ambat Productions was handling only the technical side of filming…for which abundant talents were available in this field…therefore, it is not justified to term this work as “Specialised in nature” thereby deviating from all established procedures of tendering. [Pp 7. Emphasis added]

Aside, Madhu Ambat is a veteran cinematographer for movies such as Maniratnam’s Anjali, G.V. Iyer’s Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Vivekananda. Maniratnam cast Leela Samson in his puerile OK Kanmani.

And so this deviation—a mild term really, for defiant corruption—becomes the norm as one reads page after page of the CAG report. Leela Samson’s favourites are awarded contracts and tenders to the tune of lakhs of rupees. Here are a few areas where tendering and other due processes were either not followed or flouted or subverted or all of the above:

  • Renovation of the Kalakshetra hostel kitchen—approximately ₹ 1 crore

  • In violation of established rules, no committee was formed to propose, plan, estimate and undertake civil works after getting the necessary approvals from the Finance Committee.

  • The terms and conditions including the scope specifications of the contract were varied after the contract was signed.

  • Irregularities in the upgradation of sound system including supply of the relevant equipment—approximately 63 Lakhs.

  • Procedural irregularities in the purchase of sound and lighting equipment—approximately ₹ 1 Crore.

  • Non-submittal of relevant documents to the CAG with respect to the audit of the Koothambalam auditorium/upgrade project—approximately Rs. 2.2 Crores.

  • Research and Development costs were paid out of the Plan funds for which no approval was taken—Rs. 12.76 Lakhs.

  • Rukmini Devi Hall rented out for private performances—no details as to the rent or rates charged, no record produced to the CAG.

The CAG report is a goldmine unearthing scam after scam at Kalakshetra, which was under Leela Samson’s Christian thralldom from 2005 to 2012. I highly recommend reading the wonderful book, Not Just an Accountant by the former CAG, Sri Vinod Rai, who like all honest men, was venally targeted by the UPA “government.”

A Career of Deplorability

When Leela Samson’s deplorable term ended at Kalakshetra, she didn’t step down as per law. According to law, her term would end when she turned 60, yet her clout with Sonia Gandhi got her the extension she sought. After all, why would she voluntarily stop the taxpayer gravy train that she fed off for seven long years?

Finally, it took a PIL and a stay on her extension by the Madras High Court for her to step down.

As a consequence, Leela Samson offered an unconditional apology to the Madras High Court in 2011 for violating the court’s previous order restraining her from making illegal extensions to the Kootrambalam Auditorium. Neither was this just a case of violation of court orders. She had even violated the Chennai Corporation’s Stop Work Order with respect to the said illegal construction:

…the Public Information Officer of the Corporation has issued a letter dated 11.1.2011 informing that the Corporation has not given any planning permission to the respondent for the said construction and already stop work notice and demolition notice dated 20.9.2010 and 14.12.2010 respectively have also been issued, providing copies of the said notices to the petitioners.

And when the court pulled her up for contempt, here’s how she responded:

I apologise to the court for any infraction of the above mentioned order. I am a law abiding citizen and the Kalakshetra Foundation is an institute of national importance governed by an act of Parliament. Any infraction of the order can only be attributed to inadvertence and I apologise for the same. I categorically state that the disobedience was neither wilful nor deliberate."

The whole judgment is available here.

And now she’s at the helm of the JCB Literature Prize jury even while facing a CBI inquiry. This also reflects on the ethical wisdom of the worthies at JCB who selected her. But knowing what we do about the fat cat corporates and maniacal businessmen like George Soros, this is hardly surprising.

The odds are that Leela Samson, like three generations of Lutyens courtiers, will largely go unpunished given how the entire system has been massively rigged from the inside. This is the truth: the extent and sort of damage that Leela Samson has inflicted cannot be undone.

However, her long career of Sanatana vandalism backed by political patronage should be made an academic and cultural case study for those to care to liberate our institutions from the monotheistic manacles of declared anti-Hindus and put them where they belong: in the hands of truly committed individuals for whom culture is not a profession or job or least of all, a means of livelihood.

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