Controversy brews over Srinagar lit festAugust 28th, 2011 - 3:21 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) Harud - The Autumn Literature Festival, to be held in Srinagar Sep 24-26, has stirred a controversy with a section of authors, filmmakers and intelligentsia from the state alleging the festival is an effort by the “repressive government” to gag the freedom of Kashmiris.
The protesters have devoted a Facebook page to criticise the festival, being presented by Teamworks Production, the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival.
They say there is no freedom in Kashmir for people to speak their minds, as the festival claimed.
Promoted as the state’s first national literary festival, “Harud- The Autumn Literature Festival” has promised to bring together local, regional and national literature under one platform to allow exchange of ideas and assimilation.
The festival is scheduled to be held on the Kashmir University premises.
In a appeal Saturday, the organisers expressed grief at the malicious campaign to tarnish the spirit of the festival, billed as “apolitical and inclusive”.
An open letter this week said: “Holding such a festival would dovetail with the state’s concerted attempt to portray that all is normal in Kashmir”.
The letter was signed by writers Basharat Peer, Mirza Waheed, journalist Najib Mubaraki, research scholar Insha Malik, filmmaker Sanjay Kak, rights activist Gautam Navlakha, author-activist Anjum Zamrud Habib and academician Nivedita Menon, among others.
The organsiers, on their part, countered that “the festival aimed to showcase writing in Urdu, Kashmiri, Dogri and English from the region and other parts of India”.
“False and provocative rumours that noted writer Salman Rushdie was attending the festival have been circulated via a dedicated Facebook page without seeking any clarification about the authenticity of the statement,” the appeal said.
The organisers clarified that “Salman Rushdie was never invited to attend the festival”.
There have been protests in Kashmir against Rushdie in the past as his writing has been described as anti-Islamic by many.
The organisers hit out at the protesters saying “they were surprised that some people who professed to stand for free speech have hijacked a sincere effort to create a transparent and inclusive platform for the arts and created a point for confrontation”.
The ‘Azad-Kashmir’ activists in their open letter said their concerns were heightened by reports that the festival is sought to be denoted as being apolitical and people would be free to speak what they wanted and that no one had the right to deny Kashmiris a chance to listen to writers.
“Beyond the absurdity of asserting that art and literature have nothing to do with politics, our issue is precisely that people are not allowed to speak their minds in Kashmir. Indeed, that a political reality is denied, even criminalised, in the state,” the protesters said.
The argument about freedom to speak and listen thus is disingenuous - precisely because no such freedoms exist in Kashmir, the open letter against the festival said.
“What is the efficacy of having a part of the event in Kashmir University when that most basic of rights - that of forming a student union - is denied to the students? Can there be discussions on ‘militarisation’ and ‘azadi’, core issues in Kashmir just as there have been discussions in the Jaipur festival on Kashmir and Maoism?” the signatories demanded to know.
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Tags: academician, author activist, concerted attempt, habib, intelligentsia, kak, kashmir, kashmiri, lit fest, literature festival, national literature, nivedita menon, organisers, repressive government, research scholar, rights activist, salman rushdie, sanjay, university premises, zamrud