Jaipur Literature Festival begins

Jaipur Literature Festival begins

The seventh edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival, a mega annual gathering of litterateurs kicked off here today with a keynote speech by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

Directors of the festival, which is expecting around 200,000 people to attend over a period of five days, say they are unfazed by apprehensions of controversies that had surrounded the event in its past few editions.

"Societies can only progress with debates and discussions. We haven't done anything to avoid controversies, we just want to ensure that freedom of being able to present the views exists," Festival producer Sanjay Roy said.

Rajasthan Governor Margaret Alva who inaugurated the festival by lighting the official festival torch said that JLF has made Jaipur, "the Kumbh of literature" in recent years.

"Democracy isn't just about elections or street corner demonstrations, it is about public discussions and dialogues. We need to think  about the institution of democracy with a larger perspective and celebrate the coming together of ideas and arguments," Alva said.

Elaborate security arrangements have been put in place for the Festival with a posse of police in plainclothes inside the venues along with a reserve contingency staff.

"The organisers said that they have asked participants to be careful and not to do anything which might lead to a problem," a senior police officer told PTI.

In 2012, writer Salman Rushdie had to cancel his visit to the festival following protest by some religious groups.

The controversy did not stop with the cancellation of his visit but was stoked further when some authors read out a passage from his banned book 'The Satanic Verses'.

The festival was marred by another controversy last year when sociologist Ashis Nandy allegedly made "derogatory remarks" on Dalits, tribals and OBCs at a panel session.

Spread over six venues at heritage resort Diggi Palace, the festival is set to feature about 240 authors at over 175 sessions.

Festival Co-Director, William Dalrymple said,"No wonder how Indian democracy works in the coming years, we cannot deny the fact, that books matter to the democracy authors matter and debates matter the most. Over 60 literary festivals, that have sprung up in imitation of JLF is an example of it."

The coming five days will witness sessions including a special focus on 'Endangered Languages, and the challenges of linguistic diversity'.

A series of sessions on 'Crime and Punishment' will look at issues of accountability, responsibility and culpability through the prism of detective fiction.

'Democracy Dialogues' searches the larger issues of political and social evolution. "It is of special interest in an electoral year when India is at the crossroads of change," Gokhale said.

The event is set to represent a slice of the vernacular history with over 20 Indian languages while authors and domain experts from over 15 countries would make their presence felt.

The line-up includes Jonathan Franzen, Javed Akhtar, Jhumpa Lahiri, Gloria Steinem, Shashi Tharoor, Ashok Vajpeyi, SR Faruqi, Ved Mehta, Reza Aslan, Samantha Shannon, Ganesh Devy, M T Vasudevan Nair Mahesh Dattani and Narendra Kohli.

This year publishers are participating in a parallel event Book Mark, to discuss challenges and opportunities in the rapidly changing sector.

Sessions include the challenges of translation, content and format in a digital age and intellectual property, as well as one with the Chairman of the newly formed Penguin Random House, John Makinson.

Musical flavour to the festival is set to provided at a nearby hotel. The 'JLF Music Stage' running nightly till January 20 would feature a line-up of musical talent from Sufi to Soul, including Karsh Kale, Kiran Ahluwalia, Midival Punditz and the cream of Rajasthani musicians and dancers, who will share the stage with Grammy Award-winning band Tinariwen.

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