Litfests are exceptions where you have freedom of speech: Arun Shourie

Unprecedented attack on ideas, institutions, says the former Union Minister.

“The number of persons who are now coming to the festival really shows that newspapers and television fellows who underrate the interest of persons…in wanting information, in wanting analysis and reading…they are completely misplaced,” said well-known journalist and former Union Minister Arun Shourie at the inauguration of the three-day The Hindu Lit for Life 2019 on Saturday. “There is a darkening cloud of intolerance. Persons have been killed, prosecuted and cases have been filed for what they have written or their views.”

The Hindu Lit for Life 2019 will feature 88 sessions, including workshops for children.

Speaking about violence against those who exercise freedom of speech and expression, Mr. Shourie said, “Never have we had as pervasive…as brazen…as systematic…and as prolonged an attack on ideas or freedom, and on institutions. It is centrally directed and it is implemented at all levels. This is what makes it completely lethal.” He added: “Litfests are probably the exception where you would have freedom of speech. The business of speaking what you think is right today cannot be done by established institutions in India. It can only be discharged by writers – by definition, a lone wolf.”

‘Media compromised’

Mr. Shourie said that mainstream media was silent “because of greed”. “The mainstream media is silent, not so much because of legitimate fear but because of greed. The institution that could provide protection are so compromised and weakened,” he said.

“All this is dressed up under the cloak of ideology. Ideology is just a rationale… a sort of higher purpose to the local thug as well as to the instruments of State. The sole objective of the bully is domination,” he said.

N. Ram, Chairman, THG Publishing Private Limited, said: “The Hindu has been uncompromisingly secular and committed to social justice for all Indians. Today, freedom of speech has come under pressure and assault in many parts of the country. I would like to dedicate the series of Lit for Life festival to the cause of free speech, independence of thought and independence of expression and the right to be free from all these intimidating forces.”

Mukund Padmanabhan, Editor, The Hindu, said, “Literature festivals are no longer only about literature. They grapple with a whole gamut of issues which are of interest in the current context. Now more than ever, we need spaces that encourage diversity and dial down anger and a kind of self-righteousness that encourages people to listen to other. The Hindu Lit for Life offers many opportunities for this.”

Speaking about the growth and evolution of The Hindu Lit for Life, its curator and director, The Hindu Group Of Publications, Nirmala Lakshman said: “Lit for Life has grown greatly over the last few years. It is very rewarding that the people of this city have so actively and interestedly supported Lit for Life year upon year.”

Announcing that The Hindu Prize for the best books of 2018 in fiction would be announced on Sunday afternoon, she added: “As in previous years, this year too, we have consciously crafted several sessions around important subjects like the movement calling out on assaults on women, the shrinking space for dissent, and worse, the physical attack on writers and the frequent threats to individual freedom.”

Source: Read Full Article