CAA, NRC emerges the biggest talking point at Jaipur Literature Festival

Hindi daily <i>Rajasthan Patrika </i>summed up by saying that the CAA and NRC issues prevailed over literature and that majority of the speakers were against the CAA and NRC

Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)
Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Prakash Bhandari

The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), which in recent years has acquired the reputation as one of the biggest literary fests, became a platform for authors and speakers to air their views on the CAA and NRC. Quite a large number of speakers and authors chose to air their dissent against the CAA and NRC. Rajasthan Patrika, a newspaper that has editions in the Hindi-speaking northern India and also a major sponsor of JLF, summed up by saying that the CAA and NRC isues prevailed over literature and that majority of the speakers were against the CAA and NRC.

The festival was inaugurated by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. His deputy Sachin Pilot was there in two sessions. Gehlot, while praising the festival that gives an opportunity to the fearless to speak their mind, did not miss the opportunity to take a gentle dig at Narendra Modi. He said “Maan ki baat! Kaam ki baat bhi honi chhahiye.”

Gehlot said that the Modi government should listen to the voices of intellectuals, writers and poets and their maan ki baat too.

On the very first day of the festival, actor and director Nandita Das dropped the bombshell by openly criticising the Modi government on the issues related to the CAA and NRC. Prasoon Joshi did his best to defend the CAA. The utterings by Das and Joshi set the tenor of the festival. Speakers aired their views on VD Savarkar and the holy cow. A host of the authors and speakers trained their guns on the Modi government.

Joshi, who is also the chief of the Censor Board, was booed when he said Prime Minister Modi wanted nothing for himself and he was working day and night for India’s welfare.

Former Union minister Margret Alva, who served as Governor of Rajasthan, who was to speak on the Constitution, spoke about how the Modi government was working for effecting a Hindu-Muslim divide.

While the Niti Aayog CEO, Amitabh Kant, was trying to convince the audience on Swachh Bharat, filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj, who was invited to speak on his films, digressed to speak on how the CAA and NRC would help the divisive forces in the country. He accused the Modi government of threatening the writers and authors who came out in open to criticise the CAA and NRC.

Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee chose to ignore issues related to the CAA and NRC. But the co-author of “Good Economics For the Hard Time” said that the slowdown in the economy will also adversely impact poverty alleviation in the country as urban and rural sectors were interdependent.

“We are in a deep cycle. It will take some time to fix things, particularly the banking sector. We don’t have the money to do what China did which was to put the money in the banking sector, write off the loans. We cannot afford that right now,” he said.

Banerjee said, “Poverty alleviation will suffer if the urban sector fails to create low skill jobs. Rural folks flock to the urban sector to earn their livelihood and they send the money back home. That’s the peak source of transmission of growth from the urban sector to rural sector. Whenever the urban sector slows down, the rural sector feels the impact. Poverty like cancer has many problems. There are many diseases. He said while some people were education-poor, some were health-poor and some were asset-poor. The poor should be encouraged by not lending but by giving them assets and they will be 25 per cent richer.”

He said that there was no correlation between authoritarianism and economic success.

Makrand Paranjpe, writer and academic, and Director at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, felt that it would be incorrect to say that the JLF had no writers of note and it was purely a political platform for the lost Lutyens souls.

“It has plenty of good writers from all over the world. There are synergies and exchanges that promote the pursuit of literature and the arts. JLF is a hugely successful demonstration of India’s soft power. It has proven that we can be world leaders, even world beaters, in this field,” said Paranjpe.

The festival ended with a debate on whether social media has divided the society. The panellists included Siddharth Varadarajan, Rana Ayyub, Faye D’ Souza, Nilanjana Roy and Makrand Paranjpe.

Senior journalist Siddharth Vardarajan was cheered by the audience when he said “It’s not the social media but PM Modi who has divided the society. If a person is to be identified with his clothes then how is social media playing a divisive role? In fact, we should use this medium to fight those who are trying to divide the society.”

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