Eviction Of Artistes From Govt Housing: Denying Legends The Dignity Of Life

Guru Mayadhar Rout, the 91 years old Odissi exponent, was thrown out from his modest government accommodation in New Delhi by the Government of India officials and literally this great maestro of Odissi dance is now on the street: Homeless and deserted.

The man, who is the last surviving pillar of Odissi dance foundation, is paying a heavy price for his dedication and commitment to Indian arts and culture. In the sixties, Guru Mayadhar Rout was instrumental to formalise Odissi as a classical dance form by depicting hand gestures (Mudra  Viniyoga). He is revered by Odissi community as the fourth pillar of Odissi foundation along with other three veterans; Guru Pankaj Charan Das, Guru Deba Prasad Das and Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. He is a living legend who deserves highest form of social reverence and state patronage. For his impeccable service in the field of arts and culture, he had been conferred with so many accolades including Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour. Today, when the living legend is homeless and helpless, thanks to the government order, one question must come to everyone’s mind – Is it a crime to be an artiste in this country? Is an artiste destined to live the life of destitution wearing worthless state laurels?

I know, there will be many arguments in favour of the government’s decision.  Some of those arguments may sound legally valid and justify the government action to the evict the great maestro and a few more artistes’ from their Asiad village accommodation due to nonrenewal of their licenses or non-payment of house rents. . In the 80s, Asiad Village was built up to accommodate athletes who came to participate in first Asiad Games hosted by India. Once the grand sporting event was over, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi offered those houses to artistes, sportspersons and writers at a modest rental fee. That was quite a generous and culturally sensitive gesture by the Government of India. Since then Asiad Village has been known to be the permanent address of many of our veterans in the field of dance, music, paintings and literature. Along with many of the great maestros, Odissi dance Gurus late Harekrushna Behera. Guru Mayadhar Rout and veteran painter Jatin Das were staying in Asiad village. Now all of them are notified to leave their respective houses where they have been staying for the last 4 decades.

After the Government of India changed its policy on government accommodation in New Delhi, all these veterans, who are now on the vulnerable side of the age, are notified to vacate their quarters. Many of them don’t even know how to fight with the mighty government. The Government of India sent them the first eviction notice when the second wave of COVID-19 was at its peak. I very much remember a panicked Dr Sunil Kothari (the great art historian and writer who succumbed to COVID just after getting the notice last year) desperately calling me to dial any Odia officer serving in Prime Minister’s office who can help them out. I could very much understand the sense of helplessness in his voice, but I am too a little man to suggest to him any kind of help. Dr Kothari died in December 2020 with that eviction notice hanging on his wall.

Now, Mayadhar Rout is forcefully evicted from his house. The government officials who are so strict enforcers of government policy must have enjoyed the helplessness of this great maestro!! Even the judiciary could not protect the dignity of life of these living legends. As usual government authorities would say – the law will take its own course, but we know the law is a tool of humanity if it is used with a real human heart. That very law can be very brutal if the enforcement in charge uses it with a nasty agenda. In this case, we see a blind government making insensitive and inhuman policies having scant regard for our older artistes .

Don’t we see the inhuman face of a government which goes on evicting old and sick artistes to facilitate the greedy agenda of Babus and political masters? Our criminal silence in accepting government atrocities on the veteran artistes in their 90s creates a society of inhuman robots.

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