Kashmir to host spring lit fest with 'protest in expression' theme

  • Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times, Srinagar
  • Updated: Mar 27, 2015 20:33 IST

Four years after the autumn literary festival was shelved following protests, Srinagar will host rare 'Sounth (spring)' literary festival with the 'protest in expression' session on Saturday.

The three-day festival, organised by a Punjab-based group Lehar, will be inaugurated by state finance and culture minister Haseeb Drabu in the city.

"Jammu and Kashmir has rich and vibrant literary tradition. It's this amazing richness and cohesiveness that will be given a voice," said Lehar local chairman Bashir Assad.

People from the country's top literary and journalistic circles will participate in the three-day festival with five sessions --- 'Women and youth in literature art and alternate media', 'Adab, Siyasat and Sahafat (Literature, politics and journalism)', 'Contemporary art movement in J&K and its challenges' and 'Kashmir ethos in literature'.

However, it is the session on the 'Protest expression in literature, art and alternative media in J&K' that has grabbed the eyeballs.

"There is a huge literature on sentiment, angst and pain in the Valley. It must be through the soil that this richness is disseminated. Lal Ded is an example," said Assad.

Among the big names converging from the country include celebrated Hindi poet Ashok Vajyapi, activist and writer Sadia Dehlvi, journalist Prem Shankar Jha, Bina Sarkar, Taranum Riyaz and Satyajit Bhatkal, of the Satyamev Jayate fame.

"We are expecting around 30 guests from the outside," said Assad.

Dozens of writers and poets from the Valley will also participate in the festival.

Pandit artist Veer Munshi has created an installation 'Khayalaat' representing local art at the venue Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre on the banks of the Dal Lake, with spring in full bloom in the background.

"I wanted to create a souvenir that would have lasting value. Something in the shape of a book or a manuscript would symbolize the learning and the quest for knowledge that has defined the Valley for centuries," said Veer.

Radio Kashmir Srinagar and Doordarshan are also partners of the event. Besides local writers like Aziz Hajini, acclaimed humourist Talha Jahangir is slated to perform at the fest too.

This festival is coming against the backdrop of two major protests against the Harud (autumn) festival in 2011 and the Zubin Mehta concert in 2013.

Protesters alleged that their shows were sponsored by a "repressive state".

Local authors Basharat Peer of 'Curfewed Nights' and Mirza Waheed of 'The Collaborator', who had protested against the autumn fest, are unlikely to come to the festival.

Two prominent Pandit writers Siddhartha Gigoo and Rahul Pandita are also invited for the fest.

Reacting to the festival, rights activist Khurram Parvez, who organised a parallel to Mehta'sHaqeeqat-e-Kashmir in 2013, said, "If it does not highlight the pain and truth of Jammu and Kashmir, it's not apolitical then.

"We, as Kashmiri stakeholders, have a fundamental problem when the show is organised in collaboration with the government, which is aimed at promoting the problematic political agenda of fascist and tyrannical military occupation."

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