Slated to be Puducherry’s first ever literature fest, “Bharat Shakti: Pondy Lit Fest 2018”, has already stirred the hornet’s nest ahead of its first season for inviting guests who promote right-wing ideology.
The three-day long literature festival will commence on 17 August, Friday.
According to a report by The Hindu, the list includes speakers with affinity to RSS-affiliated bodies and misses out on including prominent voices from literature fraternity.
Several have contested the guest list which largely includes political commentators and columnists such as Abhijit Iyer Mitra, Specialist in Defence and Foreign Policy, Abhijit Majumder, Chief Editor at Asianet Network, Makarand R Paranjape, JNU professor who has been referred to as an Indian poet, Anand Ranganathan, associate professor at JNU and consulting editor of Swarajya, Amish Tripathi, Indian author of Shiva Trilogy and Bibek Debroy, Member of NITI Aayog, among several others.
“A majority of the panellists were associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or its affiliated organisations and where are the literary personalities in the list of panelists. There are only political commentators and columnists,” Tamil writer Ravikumar told The Hindu.
The literature fest has also invited flak from Left parties who have decided to stage a protest outside the venue when the fest commences.
Seeking the cancellation of the lit fest on 14 August for allegedly providing a forum to promote right-wing ideology, the state secretary of Communist Party of India (CPI) AM Salim has said that Left alliance will write to the French Consulate here and to the Embassy in New Delhi, complaining of the decision of the president of the Alliance Française to allow the institution to be used as a venue for an event of this nature.
Venue Partner Terms It India’s Internal Debate
“The Alliance Française Foundation, to which the Alliance Française de Pondicherry is bound, would like to remind that the statutes of the Alliances Française worldwide, as well as the charter that the president of the Alliance Françaises must abstain from undertaking any initiative of a political or sectarian nature,” the statement issued by Alliance Française de Pondicherry on Wednesday, 15 August read.
The subject pertains to an internal debate within India in which the foundation is not mandated to intervene, the organisation clarified.
“The foundation has however expressed regret that the lit fest is being conducted by teaming up with Alliance Française de Pondicherry without any relation of the institution's objectives and that it is scheduled to be held in its premises,” the statement further read.
Allow Right-Wing Its Freedom of Speech
In reaction to demands for scrapping the fest on Twitter, several said that calling for festival’s cancellation goes against the idea of freedom of speech and expression, even if the views expressed by speakers in the festival cannot be agreed upon.