Thursday, September 8, 2011

A writer is not a jukebox

Like others, I (Basharat Peer) chose not to attend a literary festival that I believe was part of the state's attempt to suggest that all is normal in Kashmir.

A few days back, the Harud Literary Festival, which was due to take place in Srinagar from September 21 to 24, was cancelled amid great controversy. The event was to be held on the campus of Delhi Public School located outside Srinagar, next to the biggest military camp in Kashmir, the Badami Bagh cantonment. Vijay Dhar, who owns the school, was the main sponsor of the Harud festival. A businessman with strong Congress Party connections, he was an adviser to Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s. Recently, Mr. Dhar was cheerleading the Indian Army's “normalcy drive” in Kashmir by hosting an army-sponsored and organised cricket tournament, the Kashmir Premier League, on the grounds of his school.

Before the Harud was talked about in the press, I had conveyed my apprehensions to the organisers — the novelist and festival producer Namita Gokhale and her partners, Teamwork Productions headed by Sanjoy Roy and Sheuli Sethi — and suggested holding the festival independently, without any political connections. They chose otherwise. It thus became impossible for me, as an independent writer, to be part of such an event. If I had decided to attend the festival, given the obvious political connections of Harud's lead sponsor, then tomorrow I would not be able to say no to an event funded by people connected to other political establishments and ideologies. This was the same reason I stayed away, despite several invitations, from the conferences organised by Ghulam Nabi Fai, the Kashmiri-American lobbyist who turned out to be on the payroll of Pakistan's Inter Services Agency.

Full report here Hindu

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