Literary heavyweights at the Jaipur Lit Festival

New Delhi: This year, the popular annual Literature Festival at Jaipur will begin with keynote address by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and has lined up over 200 authors for a five day period of debates and discussions.

he literary event in its previous editions had been at the centre of controversy with Salman Rushdie being compelled to cancel his visit, opposition of some right wing groups to participation by Pakistani authors as well as a raging row last year over comments by sociologist Ashis Nandy.

Organisers of the free-entry festival scheduled to begin on January 17 this year at its usual venue, the Diggi Palace say they are not worried about any “controversies”.

“I don’t see controversies as anything negative. In fact, sometimes they throw open magnifying debates in the society and whenever there will be a bigger platforms with sensitive ideas being discussed, controversies are obvious to erupt,” Festival Director, Namita Gokhale told PTI.

“Ideas are dangerous thinks to deal with, but we in a democratic country are free to share them. So, we aren’t apprehensive or worried about any controversies arising at the festival,” she said.

While Salman Rushdie’s planned visit – that ultimately did not materialise hogged the limelight at the festival in 2011, sociologist Ashis Nandy created a furore over his comments on Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs in the 2012

Last year, some groups were also against the inclusion of author Jeet Thayil who had read from Salman Rushdie’s banned book “Satanic Verses” in the festival’s previous edition.

It also faced protests from right wing groups over invitation to writers from Pakistan after the killing of two Indian soldiers at the Line of Control.

Harold Varmus, a Nobel Medicine Laureate as well as four Man Booker Prize authors Jhumpa Lahiri, Tash Aw, Alison Macleod and Jim Crace are expected to attend the festival’s seventh edition.

Fresh from the outcome of the Delhi Assembly elections, JLF 2014 features a session on “Why India Votes” with Manvendra Singh and Mukulika Banerjee.

Iconic feminist author Gloria Steinem, Booker Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri as well as other writers like Amish Tripathi and Jonathan Franzen are among the speakers.

Sportsperson Mary Kom, filmmaker Ekta Kapoor and lyricist Javed Akhtar are some of the other renowned personalities who will be participating in literary debates and discussions.

As in past years, the annual Festival will also have live music sessions and interactive workshops. This year, a brand new initiative called the BookMark aimed at developing and promoting the annual Indian publishing industry, is scheduled to run parallel to the main literary event for three days at the Narain Niwas Palace in the Pink city.

A music component to the festival hosts Tinariwen, last year’s Grammy award winners, the desert Tuareg band from Mali.

A musical stage will be held of four nights with a line up including artists like Karsh Kale, Kiran Ahluwalia, Midival Punditz along with the Rajasthani musicians and dancers.

The winner of the USD 50,000 DSC prize for South Asian Literature will also be announced on second day of the festival.

Three Indians including Anand, Benyamin and Cyrus Mistry are among the six authors short listed for the prize.

Visitors can look forward to sessions such as Story of a Death Foretold with Oscar Guardiola-Riviera, Serendip with Sri Lankan diaspora writers, Mahasamar with Narendra Kohli and Vartika Nanda and session on feminism titled The Essential Gloria Steinem amongst others.

While Indrajit Hazara, Shovon Chowdhury and Bachi Karkaria speak “The Language of Laughter”, visitors can also attend the launch of the Crime Writer’s Association of South Asia.