Curtains Down on JLF, Organisers Vow to Keep It Going

Curtains Down on JLF, Organisers Vow to Keep It Going
Rocked by controversies, but not of the scale touched last year, the Jaipur Literature Festival today came to a close with the organisers giving an undertaking not to leave the city in the wake of a case registered on Ashish Nandy's comments on corruption.

Additional Commissioner of Police Biju George Joseph said the organisers were asked to remain in the city as a probe is going on against sociologist Nandy for his comments that people belonging to OBCs, SCs and STs were the most corrupt, remarks over which he has expressed regrets.

Festival Producer Roy said, "I have signed the papers on behalf of the JLF team to comply with the orders."

An FIR was lodged against Nandy and Roy last Saturday by Rajpal Meena, Chairperson of the SC/ST Rajasthan Manch, after Nandy stoked a controversy with his comments.

However, Nandy got some backing from various quarters. Interestingly Dalit author Kancha Ilaiah, said it was "a bad statement with good intentions".

"Prof Ashis Nandy made a bad statement with good intentions, however, as far as I know he was never against reservation. The controversy should end here," Ilaiah said in a statement here.

He said he would fight Nandy if he did not speak against corruption by the upper castes.

Directors of the event Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple appealed to the people to defend the freedom of speech and expression while vowing to keep the festival going.

"I really hope people will rally around to defend the festival," said Dalrymple. "We will fight to keep it open. We will fight to make sure this forum remains...We are terribly proud of what we have done," he added.

The five-day festival had run into controversies last year first over the visit of author Salman Rushdie, which eventually did not materialize and then due to reading from his banned book Satanic Verses by few authors, including Jeet Thayil.

Even before the festival began, there were protests against the inclusion of Thayil, who went on to bag the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and thus earn the ire of some organisations. However, no untoward incident happened.

Then there were the right-wingers who demanded the exclusion of authors from Pakistan who were scheduled to attend the festival. This after the straining of bilateral ties between the two neighbours when two Indian soldiers were killed in the first week of January at the LOC.

Though Pakistani author Mohammad Hanif could not make it to the festival due to personal reasons, other authors like Jamil Ahmad and M A Farooqui did mark their presence.

Battling controversies as well as a 1.5 crore shortfall in the budget, the festival managed to attract record crowds, with the footfall going from 120,000 last year to nearly 200,000 this year.

Packing in 175 sessions in five days, addressed by over 275 speakers from across the globe, the Jaipur Literature Festival had several high points to its credit in the 2013 edition.

"We are proud of what we have achieved. This year we had almost 200,000 footfall in the five days. Also, we had amazing sessions with brilliant authors discussing a range of topics which held the audience in rapt attention," said festival co-director, William Dalrymple.

On the very first day, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama almost recreated last year's Oprah moment when he addressed a full house at the front lawns of Diggi Palace, the venue of the festival, which celebrated the theme of Buddhism in Literature this year.

"India is our guru and the source of all the knowledge we have has come from here," the Dalai Lama said to a cheering crowd.

The keynote speaker Mahashweta Devi led the list of literary luminaries including Commonwealth Prize winner Aminatta Forna from Sierra Leone, Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson, two Orange Prize winners Linda Grant and Madeline Miller, Ahdaf Soueif, Tahar Ben Jalloun, Sebastian Faulks, Deborah Moggach, Zoe Heller, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Abraham Verghese.

The festival played host to subjects as diverse as the history of miniature painting and war reporting, Sharia Law and gay and lesbian literature, the Jewish novel, the 18th century sexual revolution, detective fiction and the literature of 9/11.

It focused on new writing from Latin America and Iran; examined the economic prospects of India and looked at the mixed legacy of the British Empire, the decline of America and the rise of China.

Bollywood and cricket, the two major obsessions in India also made their presence marked here. The "Wall of Indian cricket" Rahul Dravid bowled over the crowd, which poured in to listen to him. The film industry was represented by Javed Akhtar, Prasoon Joshi, Shabana Azmi and Jaideep Sahni among others attracting major crowds.
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