J&K Literary Festival Postponed Indefinitely

J&K Literary Festival Postponed Indefinitely
Kashmir's first literary festival has been postponed with the organisers today claiming that the event has been "hijacked by those who hold extreme views in the name of free speech".

In a statement here, the organisers said, "It is with great sadness that we announce the postponement of the Harud Literary Festival. Born out of the best intentions to platform work of emerging and established writers in Kashmir, the festival has been hijacked by those who hold extreme views in the name of free speech."

The controversy arose after the rumours spread that the author Salman Rushdie has been invited to attend the event over which a social media campaign started drumming up support for him.

However, the organisers reiterated that Rushdie was not among the authors invited for the festival.

"The festival had invited approximately 30 authors from Jammu and Kashmir and 20 from other parts of India. The festival had neither invited nor was planning to invite Salman Rushdie," they said.

Two upcoming writers from Kashmir – Basharat Peer of "Curfewed Nights" fame and the "Collaborator" author Mirza Waheed -- decided not to attend the festival saying it was not possible to attend an apolitical festival for them.

"A few people who began the movement to boycott the festival have no qualms in speaking on and about Kashmir across international forums, but have refused to allow other voices, including writers, poets and theatre people from the Valley and across India to enjoy the right to express themselves at the Harud festival," they said.

The oprganisers said that if those opposing the festival truly believed in free speech, they would have allowed this forum to go ahead.

"(They) would come and express their dissent at the festival. They could have put to test their claims that the festival would not allow for free speech and expression."

"Wisdom has prevailed. Hope Kashmir will have its own literature festival someday. A festival which will be endorsed by all Kashmiris across the world," author Sidharth Gigoo said.

"This is a very sad day. I still believe it could have been a meaningful festival and that the significant and the engaged writing in Urdu, Kashmiri, Dogri and English could have projected local sensibilities and situations to a larger audience," author and festival organiser Namita Gokhale told PTI from London.

A page on Facebook read, "Holding this farcical festival in Kashmir serves no purpose other than showing the world that all is OK in Kashmir... No to "Harud" in Kashmir. Let us gain some momentum then we will get this campaign going in the streets of Kashmir."

Apart from Peer and Waheed, journalist Najib Mubaraki, research scholar Insha Malik and filmmaker Sanjay Kak among others had said an open letter urging boycott of the festival
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