Shubhendra Rao suggested the airlines should pay fine for damaging musical instruments. (Photo: Shubendra Rao/Facebook)

Celebrated Indian classical musician Shubhendra Rao on Friday night took to social media and accused Air India of breaking his sitar.

Rao accused the airline of mishandling his sitar and said the staff should be sensitised on how to handle the music instruments.

In a lengthy Facebook post he said, “There it happens again! My Sitar has been vandalised once again, this time by our own #AirIndia!! Just arrived in New York to perform at the #VedicHeritageInc and this is how my Sitar has arrived. How can anyone be so ruthless and insensitive?

“For sure, this has been slit open because there is no way the sitar would break in this fashion. I know many people will come out in support and suggest many things but the simple truth is that airlines and their staff need to be sensitised towards how to handle music instruments.”

Last November, Rao had a similar experience while he was travelling to Sydney from Delhi for a concert when his sitar was damaged by another airline.

Rao said he had started a petition online to raise the issue of safety of musical instruments but nothing concrete seemed to have happened.

“When does this stop? How can any artist survive if airlines keep breaking their instruments whenever they travel? These days, no one asks me how I am after a journey. They always ask me how my instrument is.

“I had started a petition on about two years ago, fighting for the right of artists like me who continue to suffer at the hands of these stupid airlines. Even got a lot of support but eventually, nothing happened since the powers-to-be continue to remain insensitive towards arts and artists.”

Tagging Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Karola, CMD of Air India Ashwani Lohani, Rao further wrote on Facebook, “Please note that #injustice has happened on our own national carrier and someone needs to take responsibility for this callousness and something drastic needs to be done so that we artists do not continue to suffer, be it at the hands of #AirIndia or any other airlines.”

Rao also shared the pictures of his damaged Sitar and said, “From the pictures, it is very clear that someone has sliced the sitar open. To have a look at the AKG 411 mic inside? Have they not heard of scan? When they can body scan you, why is it difficult to know that they can easily scan the instrument to find out what the mic is.

“I also know that this part of the instrument is the most well-protected part of the instrument with even a 3-4 inch thick foam inside the fibre-glass box that is covered by a thick padded cover.”

He insisted that “its a clear case of vandalism”, where someone has “slit it open consciously”.

Rao suggested the airlines should pay fine for damaging musical instruments.

“Unless airlines are made to pay heavily when they break music instruments and are made to take responsibility, such cases will continue to happen. They know that they can hide behind rules and go scot-free.

“Just one case of an airlines having to pay heavily to the aggrieved musician and all airlines will toe the line and ensure that musical instruments are treated with care and respect and musicians do not suffer anymore.