People’s Literary Festival Kicks Off in Kolkata
‘It is to problematise the sanitised space of corporate literary festivals’
The second People’s Literary Festival, organised by the Kolkata chapter of the Bastar Solidarity Network, begins today, February 15. The two-day festival will be held at the Sukanta Mancha in Calcutta, between noon and 8 pm.
A statement from the organisers describes the difference of a people’s literary festival thus:
“Fascist and imperialist forces have laid siege to our democracy. Rational thought, any form of dissent, other political and cultural practices are under attack from right wing forces and it does not seem to take much for writers and artists to be labelled as ‘anti-nationals’, to be charged with sedition.”
“By writers and artists we do not mean those who have sold their art to serve the bidding of the state/corporate, or write to cater to the whims and diktats of the market. The glittering cozy chairs of literary festivals sponsored by Tata or Vedanta, anointed with the blood of the displaced and dispossessed, are adorned by them across the country.”
The statement remarks that three of the participants in last year’s PLF - Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao - now stand arrested in “a staged plot by Maharashtra police.”
Among the writers, artists, academics expected to speak at the festival tomorrow and Saturday are Afzal Ahmed Syed, Bama, Meera Nanda, Monalisa Changkija, Shah Alam Khan, Tanveer Anjum, and Uma Chakravarti.
The organisers believe that their litfest is intended “to celebrate writers and artists who have relentlessly questioned the powers that be, who have repeatedly tried to bring to the fore stories of the people the state wants to obliterate from our ‘collective conscience’.
“It is to problematise the sanitised space of corporate literary festivals and bring in voices that raise uncomfortable questions, push us out of our comfort zones and confront hard truths, to listen to movements that challenge the status quo, to find poetry in songs and slogans that declare war against this fascist Brahminical state.”
They point out “how scared the state can be when resistance shapes up in the form of art and literature. Recall how author Sudhir Dhawale’s prosecution alleges him to be guilty of quoting Brecht in a popular Marathi play.”
The statement concludes: “The People’s Literary Festival, therefore, commits to nurturing the revolutionary potential of the literary world by connecting such writers among themselves as well as with their readers.”
The schedule of discussions and performances is as follows: