Harud ‘Litfest’

A ‘controversial’ litfest was ‘cancelled’ after the best known Kashmiri authors refused to participate and endorsed an open letter questioning its motives.

The proposed Harud literary festival remained in news this year. The litfest was finally cancelled after concerns were raised by a group of individuals and extreme Facebook-reaction to rumors of controversial writers attending the festival in Kashmir.

Autumn Literature Festival was scheduled to be held in Srinagar from Sept 25-26, was to be hosted by the Delhi Public School, Athwajan with certain segments being organized at the University of Kashmir campus. The festival was the initiative of author Nimita Gokhle in partnership with Sanjoy Roy’s Teamwork Productions which organizes the well established Jaipur Literary Festival.

The debate took off when 14 authors, academics, journalists and filmmakers wrote an open letter (that appeared in Kafila) endorsed by the author of  Curfewed Night, Basharat Peer and Waheed Mirza of The Collaborator fame. The two best-known Kashmiri authors in English language had already decided against participating in the event. They took strong exception to the description of the festival being ‘apolitical’.  

“The organisers have said the event will be apolitical. So what would I do if I was there? What would I read? Every page I have written is political,” Mirza was quoted saying in the Guardian.  

The open letter questioned the motives of the exercise at a place that is highly militarized and where many basic freedoms are denied. The debate raised a set of questions about the funding, guest list, choice of venues and many other aspects of the litfest, but these concerns were responded to by silence from the organizers. Citing security concerns, the organizers then came up with a statement announcing indefinite postponement of the proposed litfest. They were apparently reacting to a Facebook page that was born within days of the announcement of the Litfest. It was fierce in its reaction to the idea of the festival. The rediscovery of the Times of India information that ‘Rushdie might drop by’ added fuel to the fire in the virtual world.

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