Friday, September 9, 2011

The Autumn of Discontent

It seemed like an innocuous enough idea: bring together the writers and readers in one of India’s most beautiful places to talk about literature. But the Harud Literature Festival, which was supposed to be held in Kashmir later this month — Harud means autumn — has become the subject of a bitter dispute that has played out in the pages of India’s best newspapers, magazines and blogs.

This bitterness arises from one of the most complex and sensitive issues in India: the identity of a disputed region claimed by both India and Pakistan. Some of Kashmir’s most prominent literary voices declined to attend: Basharat Peer, author of an acclaimed memoir of growing up during the insurgency in the 1990s, and Mirza Waheed, a BBC journalist and writer of a novel called The Collaborator, about a young Kashmiri who secretly works with the Indian army.

They and several other writers and activists sent an open letter to the festival’s organizers:

“A literary festival, by definition, is an event that celebrates the free flow of ideas and opinions,” they wrote. “To hold it in a context where some basic fundamental rights are markedly absent, indeed, denied to the population, is to commit a travesty.”

Full report here NYT blogs

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