The controversial issues of the amended citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) reverberated at the 13th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF).
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who inaugurated the five-day event on Thursday, said the country’s present situation is “unprecedented” and he expects intellectuals to raise their “voice of sanity”.
“I hope that through this festival, people in the government will get to know what the country wants. There may be a new beginning...
I hope that authors and intellectuals will use this platform for free speech to discuss the burning issues and send across their message,” Mr. Gehlot said.
Festival co-director and author William Dalrymple told the audience at the JLF venue, Diggi Palace, that the event had now formally become the “largest literary festival” in the world.
“About 5 lakh people attended the JLF last year. The huge crowd here is a proof that literature is alive. We have also inspired over 300 festivals to take off,” he said.
JLF producer Sanjoy Roy said the “narrative of hatred” being witnessed in the country could be countered through art and literature.
“We cannot afford to be silent any more. We must speak up with one voice for the common cause of humanity,” he said.
The JLF will host over 250 speakers this year, covering a wide range of topics such as environment, history, cinema, music, politics, international relations, women’s rights and artificial intelligence.
The speakers in 15 Indian and 35 international languages include authors, actors, scholars, business leaders and sportspersons.
Addressing the gathering in the inaugural session, Mr. Gehlot took a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s radio programme, ‘Mann Ki Baat’, and said the speakers at the festival would engage in ‘Kaam ki Baat’ (useful talk) without any restriction.
Mr. Gehlot said the voice of dissent should not be suppressed in the democracy. “Dissent should be treated as a healthy tradition of democracy. Terming dissent as anti-nationalism is not fair in our democratic set-up,” he said.
Actor and director Nandita Das said while interacting with mediapersons that people should raise their voice against CAA-NRC and challenge the dispensation which was asking them to be identified in the name of religion.
“Shaheen Baghs are coming up everywhere following the Delhi trend... Students have started a movement. This is the time for everyone to speak up,” she said.
Writer and literary historian Rakhshanda Jalil was given the Vani Foundation’s Distinguished Translator Award in recognition of her work.
The most significant voices coming up at the Jaipur Literature festival are the voices of dissent against the divisive act.