Not Stones, It Will Rain ‘words’ In Kashmir Next Month1 August 2011
The Indian Express
New Delhi: The Kashmir Valley battled with stones, shutdowns and curfews in the past, but then moved on to have a peaceful summer this year. Following these winds of change, Srinagar will host a literature festival next month. The festival aims to revive the rich literary roots of the valley and also boost the growing publishing industry. The Srinagar festival will showcase only Indian and Kashmiri writers. The organisers of the event believe that the festival will highlight India's rise as a global literature hub. According to recent estimates, book sales across India have been growing at 15 per cent a year, while as West has been witnessing a decline. Many analysts attribute this trend to the fact that Indian publishers are increasingly giving opportunities to young writers, who are putting out a significantly different narrative. “What is interesting to me is that Indian readers, writers, festival directors, are starting to make up their minds for themselves on what should be happening in this country, as opposed to earlier when they got their cues from London or New York,” Davidar was quoted, as saying. He pointed to the success of Chetan Bhagat, who is the most popular author in the country, as example of the growing confidence of Indian writers and readers in choosing their own themes rather than looking to the West. Despite being criticised by more literary writers, Bhagat has been acclaimed as the ‘biggest-selling English language novelist in India's history’. Sanjoy Roy, who is the producer of the Srinagar Festival, said the idea was to celebrate Indian and Kashmiri writing which highlighted common themes of humanity rather than focus on the state's long-running political conflict. “The idea came from people in Srinagar who want to create a platform for dialogue in the valley, focusing on poetry, the written word and the writers of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh,” Sanjoy said. “The agenda there is so strong that everything tends to get steamrollered and people can rarely come together to talk about anything but the ongoing conflict. Our prime focus is to bring together writers from India, the Indian diaspora and Kashmir. We have to be extra cautious in how we deal with local sentiments and be inclusive in every sense of the word,” he added. The organisers are yet to finalise the authors who will showcase their work in the festival. However, Kashmiri writers Mirza Waheed and Basharat Peer are likely to invited. There are also speculations that famous author Salman Rushdie may also turn up at the event. Basharat Peer, the author of famed memoir ‘Curfewed Night’ said he welcomed a festival to celebrate Kashmiri writing but rejected the organisers’ hopes of avoiding political controversy as unrealistic. “Everything we have written, every single word, is seeped in politics and about power and powerlessness. People are scared when it comes to Kashmir and want to play it safe, but everything is political and my book is proof of that. If someone is trying to have a literary festival which has nothing to do with what happens in Kashmir, they're mistaken,” Peer said.