The highlight of the first day’s event includes a clash on dais in between India’s leading journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and Swapan Das Gupta and Mrs Nadira Naipual’s allegations against Jnanpith Award winner Dr Kirish Karnad…writes Kaliph Anaz
London gets the taste of Jaipur Literary Festival as South Asia’s largest literary event showcased some of its programmes at Queen Elizabeth Hall on River Thames as part of Alchemy 2015.
Nobel Laureate Sir VS Naipaul, Lord Meghnad Desai, Lord Karan Billimoria, Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, were among the prominent people attended the first day’s event.
Started in 2006 with only 18 authors, the Jaipur Literature Festival has grown to become the largest free literary festival in the world, with close to 250,000 visitors annually. The two-day event in London will give an insight into ‘the greatest literary show on earth’. The schedule contains an array of programmes which showcases South Asia’s multilingual literary heritage, oral and performing arts, books and ideas, dialogue and debate, Bollywood and politics. The first day’s events began with a performance of Saberi Misra with Dhanraja Persaud and Prabhat Rao.
The highlight of the first day’s event includes a clash on dais in between India’s leading journalists Rajdeep Sardesai and Swapan Das Gupta and Mrs Nadira Naipual’s allegations against Jnanpith Award winner Dr Kirish Karnad. She was accompanying the wheel-chair bound Nobel Laureate for a conversation with Farruk Dhondy.
During an event to honour Lord Naipaul in Mumbai, Karnad questioned the Nobel laureate’s secular credentials for his critical views on the influence of Islam on India. He said Dr Naipaul had painted even the Taj Mahal in poor light for his utilisation of slave labour and extravaganza.
“Karnad’s tirade against Vidia (Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul) in Mumabi was unnecessary and out of context. The comments were not suitable and unexpected from a fellow literary figure,” Mrs Nadira said. “Dr Karnad is an idiot and fool to understand the essence of Vidia’s writing.”
She was supported by Mr Dhondy, the writer of Bandit Queen and the Rising Star of Bollywood.
“There are many people in Vidia’s immediate family are Muslims and he won’t insult a religion for literary gains,” Mr Dhondy added.
A panel discussion on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attracted a packed audience. Writer/journalist Mr John Elliot moderated the discussion on Modi’s good governance practices, foreign policy besides his personal credentials. The panel includes Mr Rajdeep Sardesai of India Today group, columnist and writer Mr Swapan Das Gupta, Mr Lance Price, author of Modi Effect and Deutsche Bank‘s Anshuman Jain.
Mr Sardesai said the prime minister is narcissistic and has some emotional issues to bond with the masses.
“Modi’s reforms are favouring a section of the society,” Mr Sardesai said. “Reforms without considering all section of the society and facilitating some citizens to access the national resources will undermine Modi’s good governance agenda. Most of his policies are just copy paste from the Congress manifesto – but Modi knew how to market it well. Indian media is polarised and the Modi camp is not tolerant to any sort of criticism.”
When the moderator questioned Modi’s penchant for foreign tours and mega projects without attending the local issues, Mr Gupta, a known supporter of Modi, said India is a federal country and there is no need for the prime minister to intervene in state affairs to implement good governance.
He also justified the pace of reforms taking place in India.
“Modi is going slow on some of the reforms because he a has to dismantle s shibboleths hampering India’s progress like Planning Commission,” said Mr Gupta.
The first day’s events saw the participation of prominent figures from the Indian diaspora like Dr Faisal Devji, Salil Tripathi, Somnath Batabyal, Suhail Seth Sidin Vadukut, Moni Mohsin, Amukulla Banerjee, Namita Gokhale, Nasreen Munni Kabeer, Ashis Ray, Divya Mathur, Dilip Hiro, Anita Raghavan, Anita Roy, Ashwin Sanghi, Anita Anand, Prayag Tiwar, Qaisra Shahraz, Romesh Gunesekera, Saf Saaz and Sharmani Basu.
The event will conclude on Sunday with a public debate. The session will examine whether or not the Westminster model of democracy has taken root in South Asia. Has the colonial model been able to evolve into an effective indigenous format for responsible governments and does it fit the imperatives of Asian democracy?