Autumn 2011: Kashmir heralds first Literature Festival

New Delhi: Come September, Kashmir is all set to host its very first Literature Festival with poetry and fiction readings, discussions and seminars, with an added emphasis on the region`s folk and oral traditions.

"It will provide a platform to celebrate the written word and create a forum for the rich literary tradition that exists in the region," according to organisers of "Harud- The Autumn Literature Festival", scheduled to be held in Srinagar from September 24-26 this year.

To ensure large scale participation of youngsters in the three day national event, organisers say the Delhi Public School, Srinagar and University of Kashmir have been chosen to host the literary extravaganza.

"The idea behind this event is to have a free and open dialogue and to share the joy of reading, writing and communicating within a creative space in Kashmir," Festival Advisor Namita Gokhale told PTI in an interview.

A series of book reading sessions, panel discussions on literature in Kashmir and workshops on script writing and the impact of digital world on communication patterns and emphasis on local writings from Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh including a special focus on folk and oral traditions would be held during the festival.

Produced by Teamworks production who are also organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival, the event is expected to feature prominent writers like Chetan Bhagat, Anupama Chopra, Mirza Wahid, Rahul Pandita, actor M K Raina besides other local writers and students from the state.

According to the organizers the National Commissioner on Minority Affairs, Wajahat Habibulah has also shown his interest to participate in the event.

Writer Rahul Pandita, a participant at the upcoming festival says he pins hope that such events would help bring peace to the Valley.

"It`s good to know that the society has begun to talk about literature. Young writers in Kashmir want to tell their stories. It`s an inspiring step for wannabe writers and it becomes a catharsis for me as a Kashmiri. It will help bring
peace to the state."

"Basharat Peer inspired many other young writers and now I know of so many young people who want to write their memoirs and many of them are getting them published as well. They can express freely and I`m sure the world is listening to them now," says Pandita.

Peer, a journalist and author, who authored "Curfewed Night" a childhood memoir championed the trend of acclaimed English writing in Kashmir. Mirza Waheed and Sidhartha Gigoo followed up with fictional accounts "The Collaborator" and "Garden of Solitude."

Peer says he won`t be attending the festival himself. "I am in America and working on a new book," Basharat said in an email from New York.

Bollywood actor and theatre personality M K Raina believes it is a "welcome step" but organisers have to ensure participation of local writers and artists.

"There are some wonderful works being carried out by people working in the vernacular language for decades, ignoring them would bring catastrophe" says Raina.

Organiser Namita Gokhale says, "The Festival will engage with local writing in Kashmiri, Urdu and English, to provide an open and inclusive forum for literature. It will celebrate the vibrant and layered literary tradition of the region, provoke dialogue and communication and create a platform and
inspiration for a new generation of readers and writers" While the organizers are still in the formative stage of the event, author Sidharth Gigoo, whose debut novel set in

Kashmir was out earlier this year, points out the event should not just be about Kashmiris writing in English.

"They (the organizers) should take into consideration suggestions from people like Rahman Rahi who`s a Jnanpith award winner. As far as I`m concerned I have no idea about it yet. Whether this event is going to focus on people who write in English or on the Kashmiri literature would be interesting to know?," he says.

Youngsters in the region, especially students are upbeat about the event and are looking forward to be a part of it.

"It`s a first of its kind festival in Kashmir and literature buffs like me would relish every moment of the event. I am looking forward to be a part of an event where such renowned names from the field of literature and arts will
assemble on the same podium," says Jamshed Rasool a student of Kashmir University.

"When is this event happening? Our `Writer`s Workshop` has closed down some time ago and am looking forward to any such prospect. I wish to be a part of it," says Rifat Rathore another student.

According to Gokhale, who is the founder director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, the event is a spontaneous one and Kashmir was chosen as a venue due to its rich history that dates back to prehistoric times.

"Every place has its problems, which provide more space for dialogue and discussion. The real impetus for conducting the event comes from within the Kashmir. Many people from Kashmir visited the Jaipur literature festival earlier this year and suggested that a similar event be held in Kashmir as
well," she said.

Gokhale, who has authored several books herself says, "As the autumn leaves change colour, the valley of Kashmir will resonate with the sound of poetry, literary dialogue, debate, discussions and readings."

Sanjoy Roy, producer of the Harud Festival and MD Teamwork Productions says, "The festival will be a great addition to our existing literary and arts festivals in India.

It is a privilege to be creating this program with the backdrop of Kashmir and its legacy of literature, which has a history of over 2,500 years.

"We strongly believe that India`s multi cultural ethos needs to resonate across the world. The sessions will include conversations on culture, travel, history, film and poetry, amongst other themes."



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