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Are you celebrating free speech, Mr. Lit Fest? Harsh Snehanshu


This January, in a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), the award-winning writer Jerry Pinto said something that sent most of us into a tizzy.

“We are sitting in the ‘Google’ Mughal Tent discussing how crucial the freedom of expression is for us writers,” Pinto said wringing his hands animatedly. “It’s the same Google that reads all our mails, encroaches on our privacy, and here, under its roof, we are discussing how we should feel free to say whatever we want without any fear.” The crowd was amused, and left with some food for thought. Would it have been possible to organize an event as grand as the JLF, free for all, without Google’s help? I asked myself. The answer was a no. Google’s deep pockets couldn’t be ignored. Should I refrain from attending the fest just because of Google’s invasion of my privacy? The answer, after some thought, was again a no. Google monitoring my mails doesn’t affect my freedom of expression that I prize most as a writer.

Two weeks later, another literature festival has arrived, this time in New Delhi. Run by arguably India’s most revered newspaper, The Hindu’s Lit for Life is being held at the Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi, on 8th February after its successful three day stint at Chennai in mid-January. The guest-list is embellished with names of noted luminaries like the writers Rana Dasgupta, Sam Miller, Rahul Bhattacharya among others, the Olympian Mary Kom, and politicians Shazia Ilmi and Manish Tewari. The entry, like every other literary festival nowadays, is free. The beautifully designed logo is aptly shaped as the fountain pen, representing the craft that it celebrates. However there is something below the logo that disturbs me. It says, ‘Powered by VIT University.’ Continue reading Are you celebrating free speech, Mr. Lit Fest? Harsh Snehanshu