An open letter on the ‘Harud’ literary festival

Srinagar-based photojournalist Showkat Shafi is seen in this photograph being assaulted by the Jammu and Kashmir Police on 19 August 2011. He was carrying out his professional duties, as is clear from the camera in his hand that the police is trying to snatch away. He and his Mexican photographer colleague were detained at the police station and beaten up, allowed to go and be hospitalised only five hours later. The police said they mistook them for stone-pelters. Photo credit: Faisal Khan

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Given below is an open letter signed by fourteen of us. Should you want to add your name to it, please do so in the comments section of this post. I shall update the names of the signatories on the post itself. Please clearly indicate that you want your name added, and write your full name and profession.

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A literary festival, by definition, is an event that celebrates the free flow of ideas and opinions. It not only assumes a freedom from fear. It demands a certain independence of mind and spirit. To hold it in a context where some basic fundamental rights are markedly absent, indeed, denied to the population, is to commit a travesty. In fact, as literary and artistic festivals held elsewhere, Israel and Sri Lanka for example, show, such events are sometimes used to falsely assert the existence of basic freedoms, even as they are denied to larger sections of the population.

In Kashmir, with its history of intense repression and brutality, markedly so in the last two decades, a context where deaths in custody, torture, rape, disappearances, curbs and assaults on the press and human rights activists are rife, where thousands of teenagers and even pre-teens have recently been arrested, slapped with FIRs and draconian laws, where infamous laws like the PSA and AFSPA are fully operational, indeed, are the operative principles, where dissent and the expression of political realities is sought to be curbed by brute force, holding such a festival raises those core issues about basic ideals and freedoms.

Our concerns are also heightened by reports that the festival is sought to be denoted as being an ‘apolitical’ event, that, yet, people will be free to speak what they want and that no one has the right to deny Kashmiris a chance to listen to writers. Beyond the absurdity of asserting that art and literature has nothing to do with politics, our issue is precisely that people are not allowed to speak their minds in Kashmir. Indeed, that a political reality is denied, even criminalised, in the state. The argument about freedom to speak and listen, thus, is disingenuous precisely because no such freedoms exist in Kashmir. Even the proposed venues, apart from being well-known for their linkages with the repressive state, highlight that fact.

What is the efficacy of having a part of the event in Kashmir University, when that most basic of rights, that of forming a student union, is denied to the students? Can there be discussions on ‘militarisation’ and ‘Azadi’, core issues in Kashmir, just as there have been discussions in the Jaipur festival on Kashmir and Maoism? Even if such discussions were to be held, would that not be in a bubble, a miasma of freedom, while even the right to life and dignity is being violated outside on the streets?

We fear, therefore, that holding such a festival would, willy-nilly, dovetail with the state’s concerted attempt to portray that all is normal in Kashmir. Even as the reality on the ground is one of utter abnormality and a state of acute militarisation and suppression of dissent, rights and freedoms.

We would firmly support the idea of a literary/artistic festival in Kashmir if we were convinced that its organising was wholly free from state interference and designs, and was not meant to give legitimacy to a brutal, repressive regime.

This letter is an attempt to state our position and to urge the festival participants to ponder some of these issues and concerns.

Signed:

  1. Basharat Peer (Author and Journalist)
  2. Mirza Waheed (Author and Journalist)
  3. Najeeb Mubarki (Journalist)
  4. Insha Malik (Research Scholar)
  5. Sanjay Kak (Documentary Filmmaker and Writer)
  6. Gautam Navlakha (Rights Activist and Writer)
  7. Anjum Zamrud Habib (Author and Social Activist)
  8. Mohammad Junaid (Research Scholar)
  9. Parvaiz Bukhari (Journalist)
  10. Hilal Mir (Journalist)
  11. Arif Ayaz Parrey (Lawyer and Writer)
  12. Suvaid Yaseen (Research Scholar)
  13. Shivam Vij (Journalist)
  14. Arshad Mushtaq (Theater Artist)
  15. Showkat A. Motta (Journalist)
  16. Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal (Journalist)
  17. Suvir Kaul (Academic)
  18. Aditya Nigam (Academic)
  19. Nivedita Menon (Academic)
  20. Shuddhabrata Sengupta (Artist and Writer)
  21. J Devika (Academic)
  22. Angana Chatterji (Academic and Human Rights Defender)
  23. Mridu Rai (Historian)
  24. Anjali Monteiro (Academic)
  25. K.P. Jayasankar (Academic)
  26. MC Kash (Rap Singer)
  27. Inder Salim (Artist)
  28. Alana Hunt (Artist)
  29. Sanjay (Xonzoi) Barbora (Sociologist and Human Rights Worker)
  30. Kamayani Bali Mahabal (Human Rights Activist)
  31. Gilles Verniers (Academic)
  32. Ananya Jahanara Kabir (Academic)
  33. Aakshi Magazine (Student)
  34. Beena Sarwar (Journalist)
  35. S. Anand (Publisher)
  36. Lalit Magazine (Teacher, Writer and Theatre Artist)
  37. Shubh Mathur (Anthropologist)
  38. Mahtab Alam (Civil Rights Activist and Journalist)
  39. Mehboob Jeelani (Journalist)
  40. Md. Ali (Journalist)
  41. Paramita Ghosh (Journalist)
  42. Dilnaz Boga (Journalist)
  43. Subir Ghosh (Writer)
  44. Majid Maqbool (Journalist)
  45. Nawaz Gul Qanungo (Journalist)
  46. Fahad Shah (Journalist)
  47. Showkat Nanda (Photojournalist)
  48. Amit Kumar (Journalist)
  49. Kashan Mustafa (Theatre Artist)
  50. Malik Yasir Ahmad (Researcher)
  51. Muhammed P (Journalist)
  52. Burhan Shaukat (Doctor)
  53. Naveed Saraf (Student and Writer)
  54. Warisha Farasat (lawyer)
  55. Sameer Yasir (Academic)
  56. Tahir Syed (Journalist)
  57. Rabia Bukhari (Student)
  58. Rafiq Kathwari (Poet)
  59. Anita Ghai (Disability Activist)
  60. Burhan Majid (Research Scholar)
  61. Tanushree Kher (Student)
  62. Sameer Panje (Journalist)
  63. Charu Soni (Journalist)
  64. Jasim Malik (Student)
  65. Ravikumar (Writer)
  66. Samurah Al Saif (Blogger)
  67. Rani Neutill (Research Scholar)
  68. Fayaz Ahmad Dar (Researcher)
  69. Asma Abbas (Academic)
  70. Yasir Yousuf (Journalist)
  71. Gauhar Siraj (Businessperson)
  72. Shah Usman (Student)
  73. Mufti Usman (Student)
  74. Ambreen Anjum (Student)
  75. Stuti Govil (Journalism)
  76. Md Mukhlis Alam (Research Scholar)
  77. Syed Salma (Research Scholar)
  78. Preetika Nanda (Student)
  79. Fouad Farooq (Student)
  80. Mohammed Afaaq Sayeed (Businessperson)
  81. Shuja Malik (Researcher)
  82. Shahid Shakeb (Journalist)
  83. Vanessa Chishti (Research Student)
  84. Ahmed Kashmiri (Activist)
  85. Basit Umer (Journalist)
  86. Adele Eisenstein (Curator, Writer, Human rights activist)
  87. Shahnawaz A. Khanday (Academic)
  88. Sarfaraz Shora (Doctor)
  89. Shaheen Shora (Doctor)
  90. Parveen Bhat (Student)
  91. Waseem Bhat (Doctor)
  92. Fahmida Khanum (Manager)
  93. Haffizullah Bhat (Doctor)
  94. Sasha Bhat (Therapist and Community Activist)
  95. Jasir Haqani (Student)
  96. Uday Chandra (Political Scientist)
  97. Subhash Gatade (Activist)
  98. Anam Darial (Student)
  99. Sharmila Bhowmik (Student)
  100. Fawzia Naqvi (Development Professional)
  101. Erfan Bhat (Blogger)
  102. Hanan T Qureshi (Student)
  103. Abid Manzoor (Activist)
  104. Reyaz Sheikh (Business Professional)
  105. Amandeep Sandhu (Writer)
  106. Nisha Bharti (Research Scholar)
  107. Zooni Tickoo (Student and Dancer)
  108. Ghazala Jamil (Academic)
  109. Aquib Husain (Student)
  110. Junaid Manzoor (Doctor)
  111. Shoeab Afra (Aid Worker)
  112. Aalia Shaikh (Student)
  113. Fahiem Altaf (Engineer)
  114. Samiya Latief (Journalist)
  115. Adhiraaj Ray (Student)
  116. Alipta Jena (Journalist)
  117. Waseem Gashroo (Journalist)
  118. Izhar Ali (Journalist)
  119. Yasmin Qureshi (Writer and Activist)
  120. Aatif Mehraj Muntazir (Student, Writer and Poet)
  121. Afthab Ellath (Software Architect)
  122. Naveed Qazi (Writer, Student and Activist)
  123. Janisar Beag (Student)
  124. Wasim Rafiqi (Student)
  125. Azhar Qureshi (Student)
  126. Junayd Rafiqi (Student)
  127. Muhammad Israr (Student)
  128. Iha Magazine (Student)
  129. Gowhar Geelani, (Broadcaster, Journalist, Writer)
  130. Wahid Bukhari (Journalist)
  131. Jhalak Subedi (Journalist)
  132. Wajahat Ahmad (Business-man)
  133. Areej Sultana (Student)
  134. Smita Chakraburtty (Researcher and activist)
  135. Irfan Malik (Journalist)
  136. Haseeb Nazir (Student)
  137. Divya Trivedi (Journalist)
  138. Nosheen Ali (Academic and Activist)
  139. Shahnaz Bashir (Writer and Academic)
  140. Freny Manecksha (Journalist)
  141. Nishtha Gautam (Academic and Journalist)
  142. Madhura Chakraborty (Student)
  143. Sumaya Teli (Mother and Medic)
  144. Humera Nazir (Student)
  145. Hanan Farooq Mir (Student)
  146. Sabika Abbas (Student)
  147. Aadil Nabi (Hydrogeologist and Ground Water Modeller)
  148. Musavir Wani (Journalist)
  149. S. Sanjeev (Writer)
  150. Mansi Sharma (Avid Reader)
  151. Aamir Bashir (Journalist)
  152. (Khalid Gul, Journalist)
  153. Irfan Mehraj (Student)
  154. Mir Laieeq (Doctor)
  155. Shabir Ibn Yusuf (Journalist)
  156. Eram Agha (Writer)
  157. Aadil Hussain (Engineer)
  158. Yogesh Chandrani (Academic)
  159. Faraz Yaseen (Student)
  160. Amish Mulmi (Journalist)
  161. Mehraj Dar (Student)
  162. Gaia Lassaube (Student)
  163. Sheikh Taha (Student)
  164. Paroo Tikoo (Reader)
  165. Uzma Falak (Journalist and Student)
  166. Umair Nazir (Lecturer Computer Science)
  167. Gowhar Fazili (Researcher)
  168. Gibran Ali (Engineer)
  169. Adnan M Qureshi (Student)
  170. Zamir Ahmed (Entrepreneur)
  171. Salfi Athar (Student)
  172. Junaid Rather (Journalist)
  173. Amba Uttara Kak (Student)
  174. Basarat Hassan (Research Scholar)
  175. Mohsin Mattoo (Management student)
  176. Snehal M Shah (Researcher)
  177. Elayne McCabe (Filmmaker)
  178. Manohar Kumar (Student)
  179. Sabbah Haji (Writer and Teacher)
  180. Ipsita Banerjee (Lawyer)
  181. Irfan Majid (Farmer)
  182. Syed Zafar Mehdi (Journalist)
  183. GN Saibaba (Academic)
  184. Idris Meer (Engineer)
  185. Sharmadip Basu (Student)
  186. Tahniyat Siddiqi (Aid worker)
  187. Aniruddha Dutta (Researcher)
  188. Owais Amin (Teacher)
  189. Arshi Javid (Student)
  190. Tariq Ahmed (Banker)
  191. Wasim Khalid (Journalist)
  192. Saqib Hassan (Student)
  193. Javaid Anwar (Research Scholar)
  194. Sofi Owais Talib (Student Activist)
  195. Mohinder Singh (Academic)
  196. Showkat Shafi (Photojournalist)
  197. Syed Junaid (Student)
  198. Zainab Hyder Razavi (Research Scholar)
  199. Asit Das (Activist)
  200. Manmeet Sahni (Journalist)
  201. Nausheen H Anwar (Journalist)
  202. Akshi Singh (Student)
  203. Muhammed Tahir (Writer and Poet)
  204. Furkan Khan (Student)
  205. Bhavneet Kaur (Researcher)
  206. Anjali Arondekar (Academic)
  207. T P Sabitha (Research Scholar)
  208. G. Ram Mohan (Journalist)
  209. Neha Lal (Student)
  210. R Hakeem (Dental Surgeon)
  211. Yasir Hamid (Student)
  212. Benish Ali (Research Scholar)
  213. Heena Kausar (Journalist)
  214. Sneha shenoi (Lawyer)
  215. Sambhav Jain (Investment Banker)
  216. I request the following to mention their professions, and in some cases full names, so that I can include their names in the list: Shahnaz, Heena Khan, Farah, Ghazal Haqani, Mohammad Ghazi, Aamir Malik, Manzoor Nowshari, Tarun Bhartiya, Rifat Rathor, Heeba Din, Wasim Rashid, Salman Ibrahim, Naveen Chander, Naqshab, Mohammed Sabit, Mohammed Rafi, Nausheen H Anwar, Uzma Falak, Chittibabu Padavala, Tafazul Hussain, Hamza Farooq, Soniya Amin, Irfan Mehraj, Mir Laieeq, Basit Ali, Waheed Mirza, Tabish Shah, Sameer Wani, Farhana, Mohammad Aehsan, Mrityunjoy, Junaid Bhat, Imtiaz Hussain Baig, Saqib Zargar, Mohsin Janwari, Altaf Hussain Wani, Ania Loomba,
If your name has been missed or misspelt, please leave another comment to bring it to my notice.

346 thoughts on “An open letter on the ‘Harud’ literary festival”

  1. The irrepressible use of the word ‘apolitical’ lends credence to the motivation moorings of Harud. Having a literary festival in such a politically laced environment as Kashmir sans the space to express the pain and anguish of the native population is preposterous and as a insult to the people of Kashmir

  2. I’m confused.

    Firstly, isn’t holding a literary festival in a place where basic freedoms are absent an *exercise* of those freedoms which we should aggressively push for? Secondly, I don’t know what the organizers meant by saying that their festival was apolitical. They might have meant that they themselves did not take a political stance, that they were an apolitical organization, without barring the speakers from expressing their political views. Would you object to that? Lastly, why not use the festival and the publicity around it to highlight the *lack* of normalcy in the Valley?

    You have to engage with the publics whose moral conscience you wish to prick. For that, your voice must be heard, even in venues about which you have reservations — it’s precisely those people who need to hear your voices! Your protest sounds more like a missed opportunity than a courageous stand for human rights — a rejection that plays well on the Upper East Side, but isn’t going to do much for furthering freedoms in South Asia.

  3. I protest against these propaganda festivals in kashmir aimed to showcase the bride of peace and normalcy to the world.

  4. Rani Neutill (Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in English, Johns Hopkins University)

  5. Jasim Malik.(Student)…What is the point of such festivals when our pen is under constant vigil and scrutiny? freedom of expression is a dream in the valley?

  6. No incertitude that I discover myself each and every day but whenever i listen to , somehow; it makes me to conceive that was my life really exquisite .i am still in deep dilemma when I was growing kid who was suppose to heed the rimes, listened to the loud cries from the rear of the folks. I was conjecture to make friends came across to persons who were loaded with artillery. I am just another poor fellow from Kashmir. Who loves his culture, who loves the wazwan, who loves hayfields of Gulmarg I wish i could live without fright, fear of a militry woal (ARMY PERSONALS) and so of other elements. I wish i could go out in the morning and evening to see the dawn’s benediction of Hazratbal and the dusk’s tranquillity of Dal, like it used to be a decade and a half back. Life is at a stalemate in Kashmir, i wonder if we are going to come out of this misery any sooner. Lots and lots of peace talks, and the end result, just another killing, just another grenade, just another house set on fire, just another rape, just another casualty, just another disappearance, just another widow, just another strike

    Wasim—– A LOST SAINT ( CONSULTANT)

  7. Agree totally..
    Signed.
    Ahmed Kashmiri
    Activist of Kashmir’s Liberation struggle – Internationally
    Kashmir Centre
    JKLF – London

  8. can’t think of anything more ironic than a ‘apolitical’ literary festival in kashmir of all places

  9. I agree, kindlyadd my signature/name attached with it…

  10. I salute all of you for your courageous step. This is indeed sign of sense and maturity on your part, that you have decided to protest and raise your voice against the Harud, through democratic mean of signature campaign. I am a freelance journalist. Please add my sign.

  11. good work. .media forming the voice of common people has been dumbed in kashmir…this thing has also played a gr8 role in curbing the FREEDOM Of SPEECH ….and added to the miseries of kashmiri people…

  12. I am happy to add my name to this list, in principle, because I appreciate the fact that the letter does not in fact call for a blanket boycott on the possibility of cultural processes and events in the Kashmir valley. In this, it is treading a different ground from say – the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which I do not endorse. This letter says – “We would firmly support the idea of a literary/artistic festival in Kashmir if we were convinced that its organising was wholly free from state interference and designs, and was not meant to give legitimacy to a brutal, repressive regime.”

    This means that it does not call for a blanket ban on cultural engagements in Kashmir. What it offers is a call for reflection on the part of those who are organizing the Harud festival about the way in which they have characterized the festival as an ‘apolitical’ space.

    If the organizers of the Harud Festival explicitly apologize and take back their insistence that it will be an ‘apolitical’ event, then, I feel it would be quite interesting to engage with the festival, and turn it into a vibrant, actual space of discussion, all the more valuable because it takes place against the real context of state violence. The need for books, literature and art does not go down when the state acts with violence, it increases, and we should take every opportunity to challenge the demoralization that an atmosphere of state coercion and violence creates with every possible book reading, film screening, literary festival and art exhibition. To do so is not to create an atmosphere of ‘normalization’ or legitimacy for the regime that undertakes the occupation It can, in fact, be the every opposite of such a process. It all depends on what is done, and how it is done.

    The Harud Literary Festival is, as far as I can see, a private initiative, a spin off from the Jaipur Literary Festival, and it has the liberty, and the opportunity, to toe a line totally independent of the Indian state and its policy of occupation in Kashmir. Nothing dictates that it should organize an ‘apolitical’ event. And if someone is telling them what line to toe, then they should come clean about this. At least that would make things more honest and transparent. After all, if the political nature of writing on and in Kashmir can be discussed freely at the Jaipur Literary Festival, there is no reason why the same liberty should not be operational at another festival organized by the same people who organize the Jaipur Literary Festival. Merely the fact that the event is being envisaged in Kashmir should not be a reason for the organizers to adopt different standards.What is good enough for Jaipur should be good enough for Srinagar.

    We should all encourage them (the organizers of the Harud Festival) to disown their previous statement publicly, and own up to the courage of organizing a festival in which no restrictions in the name of ‘apolitical’ or ‘political’ content are in place. The only criterion admissible in terms of the discussion of the organization of a literary event should be the quality of books and writers, not the ‘political’ or ‘apolitical’ nature of their contents and statements. In any such event, a low quality ‘apolitical’ book should be as out of place as a low quality ‘political’ book, and books of high quality, regardless of whether or not their authors or readers view them as being political or apolitical, should be just as welcome. If the organizers do not agree to take back their insistence on holding an ‘apolitical’ festival, the reasons for reservations that this letter expresses will, of course, remain.

    If indeed something like that were to come to pass. We could all explore the possibility of holding a parallel literary festival in Kashmir, as another private initiative, and ensure that in fact the really interesting writers are present there, either in person, or virtually, through recorded statements, skype chats and other digital means. If the state tries to prevent this from being done, it can lead to an interesting, highly visible (globally) and embarrassing situation for the forces that administer the occupation. I remember this being done when for instance, ‘Mumbai Resistance’ an event parallel to the World Social Forum was held in Mumbai. I do not recall that holding such an event ever involved anyone saying that the objections that some people had to WSF Mumbai had been ‘normalized’ or ‘legitimized’.

    As someone who has been witness to the electric intensity of a screening of Sanjay Kak’s film ‘Jashn-e-Azadi’ in Tagore Hall in Kashmir, I know the importance of every moment where free expression can reign, even if momentarily, in a space as contentious as Kashmir. I am sure that many would agree that the memory of that screening, and the intensity of the debate and discussion that followed it, resonates to this day. Tagore Hall is, as far as I know, a state controlled space, and yet, it could be turned for that day into a space of vibrant autonomy.

    It is for this reason that I would never support a general cultural boycott that sought to target Kashmir or for that matter, India, or for that matter, Israel or Sri Lanka. Each event should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, on the basis of what the organizers, irrespective of where the event is taking place, commit to, and thought through in terms of what each instance of cultural activity implies for the health and vitality of contemporary culture in that space. There are no easy, one size fits all, answers and nor should we pretend that there are. To pretend that is so is to abdicate our responsibility towards forging an agile cultural politics.

    I do have one criticism of the letter though. It is mentioned that Kashmir University is not a venue where things can be done freely because there is no students union in place. The same conditions operate, perhaps for different reasons, but in the same form, at Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the Aligarh Muslim University. There is no student union at present in any of these two institutions. And yet, most of us would think nothing of actively engaging with these spaces, with the cultural and intellectual life of these spaces, and for good reasons. It is one thing to communicate one’s reservations against a literary festival that says it is committed to being ‘apolitical’, and quite another thing to base one’s reservations, even in part, on the technicality of whether or not a students union were present at a university that were to be one of the venues of the festival. After all, a cultural event at precisely such a university can be a useful platform for arguing against the ban on student political activity or a student union.

    I hope that the organizers of the Harud Literary Festival read the letter in the spirit in which it is written, and take this opportunity to make amends for the damage that their statement about the desirability of an ‘apolitical’ festival has done. Mistakes happen, and it is quite all right on the organizers part to state that they were mistaken. It is far more gracious to say that than to insist that they were misunderstood. If that is done, this letter might actually be able to contribute to a a process where people who love books and literature in Kashmir have a real opportunity to engage with writers and other readers.That would be a fitting tribute to a culture as obsessed with the written word, as fertile a space for literature and the imagination, despite the venality of the occupation, as is present day Kashmir.

    regards,

    Shuddhabrata Sengupta

    1. Dear Shuddhabrata,
      With due respect to your opinions, I also have one criticism to your comment like you have to the letter itself. True that there is no student union at present in any of the two institutions you mentioned in your comment. But in Kashmir University the student union almost never did exist. Even a small protest for a hygienic food there is viewed otherwise.

    2. Shuddha: “The same conditions operate, perhaps for different reasons, but in the same form, at Jawaharlal Nehru University and at the Aligarh Muslim University. There is no student union at present in any of these two institutions.” That, at best is a misconstruction, and, at worst, a deliberate conflation and a canard. There is hell of difference between not being able to form a union because of Supreme Court restrictions on, say, not having posters on walls, which is a centrepiece of the unique elections in JNU, and ostensibly given reasons of muscle power and violence as given in AMU. In case of Kashmir University, there is a permanent paramilitary camp at the campus for the past 20 years, students pasting posters are booked under PSA, teachers are not allowed to entertain a doctorate study on say, torture, and where a nascent student body is told that names of proposed union members have to be submitted so as to be whetted by IB and a host of other intelligence agencies, which act of suppression is part of the larger militarised governance. For example, an Arabic teacher at Kashmir University was jailed thrice for his ideology, while the BJP’s state vice president is a professor of geography at Jammu university in the same state. That, patently, negates any comparison with any Indan university.

      1. Dear Burhan Majid and Showkat,

        I read your comments on my response, and agree, that equating the conditions under which the student union of Kashmir University, Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University stand suspended are not wise. It is one thing, as you say, to have strictures passed on student political activity and quite another thing to have a permanent paramilitary camp at the campus, and to have prohibitions on topics of research. In the light of the above, I withdraw my criticism of the way the letter invokes the situation in
        Kashmir University.

        Thank you for pointing this out,

        best,

        Shuddhabrata

      2. Dear Shuddha,

        I know where your criticism comes from, and I admit, perhaps the letter needed to be little clearer on the issue of students’ union, and freedom of speech and expression generally, in KU. Maybe a small mention of the fact that while AMUSU, JNUSU and other student unions are intermittently suspended for “administrative” reasons, the reasons for KUSU not being in place are “political”, so even if it (KU) has a student union tomorrow, it will be forced/coerced/organized to toe an Indian statist line. Or maybe, something on the general lines of what Burhan and Showkat have had to highlight here.

        Zindabaad!
        Arif

  13. Shubh Mathur, Anthropologist
    What is needed in Kashmir is not a literary festival but an international war crimes tribunal

  14. Yasir Hamid (Research Scholar)
    ‘Harud’ a literary festival is in fact a state-corporate led manufactured propaganda, a strategy to filter the dissident voices.

  15. In complete agreement with the author. So i sign not to hold this festival in Kashmir.

  16. saqib hassan (student)
    we want a nation with dignity and humane rights. we will always struggle for it.

  17. the aim of organising such event is just to make the world community believe that all is well in kashmir, when evryone knows its not. its our duty to not let them succeed in these evil designs.

  18. erfan bhat (blogger)
    there is no need of such festivals where you are even arrested for witing blogs.

  19. Abid manzoor (activit of free kashmir)
    OPPRESSED PEOPEL DOD HV FREEDOM TO EXPRESS THEIR VIEWS FREELY .. SO M AGAINST DIZ PROPOGANDANIST FESTIVAL “HURD” COUNT ME IN ….. I SIGN

  20. I also agree. Add me in the list, please

  21. Please sign on my behalf.

    Sasha Bhat (Therapist and Community Activist.

    also sign for

    Sarfaraz Shora (doctor)
    Shaheen Shora (doctor)
    Parveen Bhat (student)
    Waseem Bhat (doctor)
    Fahmida Khanum (manager)
    Haffizullah Bhat (doctor)

  22. Journalists should have all freedom to express. their decisions should not be politicised.

  23. All: Your name will be added to the post above only if you leave your full name and profession. (Obvious!) Pseudonyms are a bad idea.

  24. I have included all names so far in the post above. If I have forgotten anyone, please point that out, and ditto if I have misspelt your name. Those who have not included their full name or profession, or not indicated explicitly that their name should be added, please come in with clarifications. Signatures submitted after this comment will be updated after 12 hours from now (2:16 am IST). Thanks all.

    1. Hi, Shivam
      My name is Mohammad Aehsan and I am a Network Professional and an Entrepreneur.
      Regards.
      Aehsan

  25. I believe kashmir issue has always been neglected either by duo neighbouring countries or the giant U.N.O. itself. there remains only the attmpts to be made by kashmiri journalist to highlight it but also are being thrashed while on duties.
    This seminar could highlight the core issue as if discussed in right perspective..

  26. From Nishtha Gautam (Academic and Journalist)

    I would want my name to be added to the list, since I believe that there should be freedom to voice political dissent in this purported “apolitical” festival. However, I urge the literary.journalistic community to not MISS this opportunity. Kashmir needs cultural and literary engagements. The best way will be to capitalize on any chance that one may get. Since we already began discussing politics of Kashmir at Jaipur Literature Fest, the lit fest in Kashmir may become an important and more potent medium to carry forward that discussion.

    While the concerns voiced by the letter are valid, I hold the firm opinion that any step, however small, however insignificant or banal, is a step FORWARD. You say, “We fear, therefore, that holding such a festival would, willy-nilly, dovetail with the state’s concerted attempt to portray that all is normal in Kashmir.” No, nothing is normal here. However, there may be a hope for normalcy. “suppression of dissent, rights and freedoms” can not be condoned, but the region needs a break from political turmoil, too. Would you completely reject the idea that it is the idle youth that falls prey to ideological rampage? Let the youth engage with something else, other than stones and bullets. You say that such festivals hold no promise and I say that it is a beginning, no matter how humble. Do people of Kashmir not have a right to believe that things may change?

    Let us not be cynics and miss this opportunity. Kashmir has witnessed the might of sword, give pen a chance.

    Regards,
    N

      1. Dear Rafiq,
        Yes, I know the sword-pen relationship in Kashmir.
        However, it would not harm anyone if a channel for multilogue is opened. If we keep rejecting possibilities, waiting for an ideal, are we not being complicit with the ones who want the status quo? If today the festival is “apolitical,” (though I dont understand how can ANY literary festival be apolitical), it may mean that no party-politics is to be discussed. To me it is acceptable. Why should it stop writers, thinkers and literary enthusiasts from coming together and voicing their personal opinions? If we do not sow the seed, how do we expect to gather fruit? Only if there is a blanket ban on dissent, should one reject the aforesaid festival. In that case, no discourse is possible anywhere in the world.

        Regards,
        N

  27. How about a parallel fest in Srinagar around the same dates may be in some open park? regardless of its size and venue… it could be more open and free and allow for all kinds of articulation, (written, spoken, performed)… even on issues that actually matter to people or have been rendered inexpressible. I am willing to volunteer.

    1. I endorse this view and also sign in for a protest against the “Non-political Harud”.
      Muqbil Burhan (Research Student)

  28. Please add my name:

    Sanjay (Xonzoi) Barbora, (Sociologist and human rights worker)

  29. Can we ask Mr Syed Maqbool Shah of Lal Bazaar–the man who was bundled into Tihar jail for Delhi bombings only to be found innocent after 14 long years–to read his autobiography about what it is like to be a Kashmiri in this era. His story is a memorabilia of the injustice meted out to him for a good half of his life. Four diaries detail his sufferings (Apni Aap Beeti).The innocent man languished in prison for 14 years in a journey full of torture and passing from cell to cell while attorneys and policemen who knew he was innocent stayed silent. Let his reading take place in a park or a hotel on the same day.

    umar ( Journalist)

  30. Mohsin Mattoo(Management student)

    You have missed my name Mr. Shivam Vij.

  31. Mohataram Jenaab Shivam Saheb & Kafila Team,
    Humaara naam add kiya jaaye, please if you please?
    I like that this is not a ‘just-because there can be NO cultural/literary fest in Kashmir’, but rather, a clear sounding out that any event of this sort ought to be independent of state/other interference. I am agree!

    Sabbah Saleem Haji
    (Writer, Teacher, Serial Outrager)

  32. Lawyer. Believer in freedom in every sense of the term. Also a mother who wants her children to grow up unfettered

  33. For Art and Literature without the flavour of reality is either impotent or just a plain sham.
    Hence endorsed.
    – Irfan Majid (Farmer)

  34. Please add my name.
    Sharmadip Basu (Graduate Student, Syracuse University)

  35. We wish to categorically state that the Harud literature festival is not government sponsored. It has been conceived with the intent of creating a platform for free and open debate, discussion and dialogue through contemporary narratives, literary fiction and poetry.
    The festival seeks to showcase writing in urdu, kashmiri, dogri and english from the region and other Indian writers. We seek support for the spirit of the festival which is plural, inclusive and supports freedom of speech and expression.

    1. I am happy to see Harud respond, but i am afraid it is a simplistic response and does not answer many questions like:

      1. Can the funding sources (All) for the festival be made public?
      2. Who has been invited and who left out, both from Kashmir and outside?
      3. How was the choice for the two venues made?
      4. Who are the festival partners in Kashmir?
      5. Will the event be open to general public?
      6. If so, will the festival organisers guarantee that those common people who might speak at the event would not be hounded and harassed by any security agency, or indexed for any purposes like denial of travel documents etc?
      7. Will any communication between the festival organisers and any government agency be made public? (Permissions must have been sought)
      8. Has participation of any government official (even as guests) been sought?

      All these questions and many more are relevant because the festival is being held in one of the most contentious and militarised spaces.

    2. From the response of Harud organisers, it appears that they are either total ignoramuses or poseurs. Do they know that the venue of the festival is going to be Kashmir university, where students who want to demonstrate peacefully are spied upon by, not cops, but gardeners who are given walkie talkies? That there is a permanent police camp inside, not for campus security, but to curb dissent? That a teacher can’t entertain topics for research that are perceived to undermine the authority of the state? That before the visit of any Indian politician, hostellers are asked to vacate the campus, a select group of students is allowed to attend convocations and such programmes lest the majority of students voice their sentiments? That a room which served as the office of the nascent students body was bulldozed on a Sunday evening last year? Though the reply wants to make it appear that it is going to be a purely literary event, Mr Roy clearly stated in the media: “We strongly believe that India’s multi cultural ethos needs to resonate across the world.” Why should the festival be aimed at radiating the multi cultural ethos of a nation against which the Kashmir is at revolt for the past 60 years?

  36. This highlights the most repressive element of our existence. Curtailing ‘freedom of expression’ on either side of the ‘LOC’ has also been the tormentor’s most valuable tool.

  37. I wonder how can it be? The ones who are suppressed since a long long time, must feel even more need to come up to these discussion platforms. Harud Literature Festival not being a part of any government and political activity is at least a podium for the unheard to speak.
    As they say, nothing starts big. We have to look ahead of what has happened. This can be one of the smallest opportunities to put forward what one feels, rather what each one of the citizens feel.
    No freedom was achieved overnight. starting small talks is positive.

  38. Shivam, I’m not sure Nausheen H. Anwar has seen your request. Her profession should be listed as (Academic).

  39. The literary festival with its stage managed discussions should not be allowed to portray normalcy in Kashmir while the people there continue to suffer atrocities at the hands of mercenary forces. This is G. Ram Mohan. journalist with Deccan Chronicle in Hyderabad

  40. i appreciate AAsif’s point of view “such a proposed event is worth a trail…apprehensions notwithstanding…”. i am looking forward to the event, because I love kashmiri culture. what is political and what not is a very subjective matter. everything is political for me. personal is political too. i dont agree to the observation that people are continuring to suffering attrocities in Kashmir. i was there last year when the stone pelting and the geelani bundhs were taking place. I visited many homes and places, spoke to Muslim Kashmiris on the road and in shops as well as homes. they were hospitable, some openly saying that they feel freer in Pakistan and that there is some Quran connection they feel towards Pakistan, but they continue to like living wherever they are.
    some of the comments put up here by responsible and intelligent (but rigid) people are so full of hatred towards the Indian state and security forces that the freedom the muslim kashmiris want will never arrive. if one continues looking at the bad sides of any person/ institution, one never comes to solve the issue in question. afterall the mistakes done by the KM’s are known to all too and meanwhile accepted by some of them.and the return of KP’s taking place. i met tarigamiji and the poet zareef ahmed zareef sahebji, i met parvez of J&^K civil liberties. I met Sanjay Tickoo of KPSS, who told me that some 30 thousand kashmiris visited the Dusserah festivel they organised year before in the center of the city.i saw sanjay kak’s ameteur film on azadi. the aam admi in the valley does not believe in the hatred filled and militant way of solving the problems that Kashmiris have with the Indian state. and they are no different than those of millions of other Indians, except for the Pakistani angle. i am a grandmother and a Kashmiri Pundit. i want my children and us all to again live the way we did before the partition of the Indian subcontinent took place and the biggest mistakes ever done by the west fascinated nehru of not listening to sardar patel at that time. no Indian Muslim wants to live in Pakistan today, so what use has the formation of this state been for Muslims?. why dont we give every opportunity open to us to keep up the dialogue? i am going to visit the festival. ashaps. put me on your list.

  41. Signed.

    Sambhav Jain. (Vice-President, Goldman Sachs)

    The question might be what I’m doing at Kafila. Oh well…

  42. i sign and endorse kashmir political discourse(facebook activist)….

  43. All signatures received until now have been included, except those that are incomplete (that is, without full name and/or profession). Signatures received hereafter will be updated on the coming Saturday.

  44. CRAP……………………………………. . although i could have written much more in this comment but i don’t prefer to waste my words for this so called “APOLITICAL” festival

  45. God, limit these punishments, there’s still Judgment Day —
    I’m a mere sinner, I’m no infidel tonight
    –Tonight, Agha Shahid Ali

  46. I fail to understand for every single positive step that could be taken, some people will take 10 steps back. What is wrong in holding a lit fest or even a musical or film festival. If you thing that it will be state controlled and there will be no freedom of expression then I think you guys are miserably wrong. You are writers and journalists who have signed this open letter, who do you fear. As the saying goes, pen is mightier than the sword, you can say whatever you want to unless you fear state persecution. If its only about fear then you have no right to complain and boycott this literary festival. I believe in a state which is completely on tenterhooks all the time, where the people are fighting the terrorists or the state or drugs or anything else , isn’t holding a literary fest a good thing. Who knows it could encourage a lot of young people to wield their pens and enter the world of words; express their belief, write whatever they want to.
    It is really sorry to see that you people who can help and heal the valley are at the forefront of inflicting more injuries on your people.
    If you don’t wish to publish this comment, it will just go on to show that you really don’t care about your people. Believe me it won’t matter even an iota if you don’t publish the comment.

  47. I am dismayed by this common outburst of atrocities being inflicted on common kashmiri, even though I agree that mistakes have been made in the past. Most of it comes from armchair experts who hardly venture out of the cities, or worst, by some who have never been to the state!!! After spending years in kashmir, I stilll dont recall ,me or those around me , behaving arrogantly with the common man . I do my duty , have more kashmiris as my friend than in any other part of the world and m still a proud Indian. For those who harbour doubts about intentions of the Army , I invite you to an independent visit ….and Yes , tomorrow I am celebrating Eid with the people. like always …. and with more love than you all can imagine.

  48. Kashmiris who are living abroad have a vested interest in keeping the fires burning in Kashmir for it gives them access to various international forums as representatives of the ‘oppressed’ people of Kashmir. If peace returns to Kashmir they will be deprived of the key that opens many otherwise closed doors for them. People of Kashmir must realise that in case the heart of these self serving sympathisers truly bled for their people, they would have joined their brothers and sisters in Kashmir to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their ‘struggle’ instead of enjoying ‘qaum ke gham mein dinners with the huqqaam’ in London and New York.

  49. This is preposterous. You are just muting the voice of local writers. You are simply spreading, aiding and abetting terror when the state is in the process of gaining normalcy. Shame on you

    1. 100% Correct!! Well Said

  50. e it known to all, “ESPECIALLY JOURNALIST FRATERNITY OF KASHMIR”, that the first of its kind in the valley, an International Literary Festival by the name “Harud”, WOULD BE HELD despite all the expected odds and heavy criticism Insha Allah!!

    The main objective of this festival is to give the budding writers an International Exposure and platform to fine tune their writing skills.

    As a distant part of organising team and having a list of dignitaries who were to be invited or were expected to showup, even in the least bit did not appear Salman Rushdie’s name…
    It is clear cut that these pseudo Intellectuals/ upstarts do not want to give the budding writers of valley a chance to have an International Platform. However, it is very right that India would hijack the same to portray Normalcy in Valley!!

    Further, what an immature and Careless Journalism by someone? A careless journalist reported that Salman Rushdie had been invited to attend the festival!!!

    Ah, the concerned Journalist should take some Bachelors classes in Journalism again!!!

    I now wonder the credibility of reporters!! Do they really do their reporting jobs with proper Research, Truthfulness and Justice or have they been reduced from the coveted posts of an honorable Journalist to Third Class Rumor Mongers???

    :(

    See you at Harud…

    Thanks
    Regards
    Owais Ashraf
    Barakallu Feek!!

  51. Since the festival has been indefinitely postponed, further signatures are not being added. For the same reason, this thread is closed.

Comments are closed.