Is India being needlessly blamed for the withdrawal of the two star attractions from the upcoming Galle Literary Festival (GLF), Noble laureate Orhan Pamuk and Booker winner Kiran Desai?
Their withdrawal from the GLF, beginning January 26, was announced within a day of rights organistions calling for a festival boycott - endorsed by Noam Chomsky and Arundhuti Roy -- because of Sri Lanka's allegedly poor human rights record during the end of the civil war. The two were expected to reach Galle after attending the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival.
But the GLF organisers and the Presidential secretariat issued statements indicating that it was India's tightened visa rules for re-entering India that prompted the star withdrawal though Desai shouldn't have had a problem as she is Indian.
It, however, was reliably learnt that India had not only issued Pamuk a multiple entry visa from the Indian embassy in Istanbul but the High Commission of India in Colombo had also assured the GLF organisers that all Pamuk had to do was to fill up the re-entry form and submit it.
"There was no ambiguity. The organisers had approached us. We had fully assured them. (about allowing Pamuk and Desai back into India). The rules have been tightened but in genuine cases exceptions are made,'' informed sources in Colombo.
"If a person doesn't want to come, why put the blame on us?'' sources said.