India being made scapegoat at Galle literary fiasco
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.(After the Mumbai attacks, the rules were tightened to allow a foreign tourist to re-enter India only after a two-month gap, except in special cases.)
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 – verbally and in written – 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 told HT.
"High level assurances of a smooth re-entry for Mr Pamuk unfortunately were not enough to allay his fears that he would not be allowed to re-enter India after the festival," the GLF organisers said in a statement, insinuating that India was to blame.
``If a person doesn’t want to come, why put the blame on us?’’ sources said.
While the two statements from GLF and the Presidential secretariat imply that it was Pamuk’s apprehension about re-entering India that stopped him from coming to Sri Lanka, the real reason could be different: Both he and Desai could actually have responded to the GLF boycott call by Reporters Sans Frontier but were not willing to take a stand. And the GLF organisers too found it easy quietly put the blame in India’s court.
The RSF statement said at least 46 eminent analysts and authors – including Noam Chomsky, Arundhuti Roy and Tariq Ali -- had endorsed the appeal to shun the festival in a country where freedom of expression was severely impaired. It added that arts should not be celebrated where journalists were killed or have disappeared.
The gunman who attacked an Independence Day parade in suburban Chicago fired more than 70 rounds with an AR-15-style gun that killed at least seven people, then evaded initial capture by dressing as a woman and blending into the fleeing crowd, police said Tuesday. More than 30 people were wounded in the attack, including one who died Tuesday, task force spokesman Christopher Covelli said. Robert Crimo spent several weeks planning the assault, Covelli said.
Scandinavian Airlines on Tuesday filed for bankruptcy in the United States, warning a walkout by 1,000 pilots a day earlier had put the future of the carrier at risk. The Stockholm-based SAS airline group said it had “voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S., a legal process for financial restructuring conducted under U.S. federal court supervision.” Filing for Chapter 11 in New York puts civil litigation on hold while the business reorganizes its finances.
UK cabinet ministers Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak on Tuesday resigned from their positions saying that have they lost confidence in Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned within minutes of each other. Javid also posted the same on Twitter. Johnson has been hit by allegations he failed to come clean about a lawmaker who was appointed to a senior position despite claims of sexual misconduct.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart this week in Indonesia at a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 bloc of the world's leading industrialised nations, the State Department said Tuesday.
The city of Xian in northwest China's Shaanxi province will be locked down from Wednesday, following a community outbreak of the highly transmissible Omicron BA.5, the first cases of the Covid subvariant in China, becoming the latest challenge to the country's zero-Covid policy. While in-house dining has been suspended, take-aways will be allowed, authorities said. “Special places such as prisons, welfare homes, and old-age institutions will be closed for management,” a state media report said.