Jaipur Literature Festival begins with call for freedom of expression as Dalai Lama steals limelight
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Some Muslim groups had warned JLF organisers against inviting authors who have "hurt" religious sentiments of the community, including Jeet Thayil, Ruchir Joshi, Hari Kunzuru and Amitava Kumar, who had reportedly read out passages from Rushdie's banned "Satanic Verses" at the event last year.
"It seems as if culture has become the new target and may it is because you know writers, painters, filmmakers, scholars don't have armies, gangs or bully boys that you can put on streets to defend our novel or film or painting and so its not hard to attack," said Rushdie, who is Delhi to promote the Deepa Mehta directed "Midnight's Children," a film based on his Booker winning book of the same name.
"Unfortunately in this age of strange form of identity politics that have grown out in which people define themselves not by things they love but by things they hate..." he said.
Following recent tension between India and Pakistan over cross-border violations, many right-wing organisations haveopposed participation of Pakistani authors at the festival.
The event lineup has authors from Pakistan including Mohammed Hanif, Jamil Ahmad, Fahmida Riaz and journalist Sharman Ubaid Chinoy.
Festival producer Sanjoy Roy said, "Authors don't write to please. We should allow them independent space to write."
Rajasthan Governor Margeret Alva also spoke the need to "remain committed to the inherent right of every individual to freedom of speech and expression". "This festival is a celebration of this freedom in all its diversity," she said.
"You, I believe, could well be that voice ¿ strong and fearless, not bound by artificial barriers of class and creed but committed to the inherent right of every individual to freedom of thought, speech and expression," said Alva.
Meanwhile, 87-year old Mahasweta Devi spoke about marginalised communities in the country and said that it had been her endeavour to write about their culture and struggle.
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