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Jaipur Literature Festival 2016 Freedom Of Expression Essay

The Jaipur Literature Festival is an annual literary festival[1] which takes place in the Indian city of Jaipur each January. It was founded in 2006, and from 2008 has been produced by Teamwork Arts. 2016 is the ninth edition of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. [2][3] The world's largest free literary festival,[4] it was described by Miranda Seymour in the Mail on Sunday of 10 August 2008 as "the grandest literary festival of them all".

The Diggi Palace Hotel serves as the main venue of the festival with sessions held in the Hall of Audience and throughout the gardens of the Diggi Palace in the city centre.

The festival directors are the writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple and it is produced by Sanjoy Roy of Teamwork Arts. Surina Narula is the Founder Sponsor and Festival Advisor for the literature festival. The Festival is an Initiative of the Jaipur Virasat Foundation founded by Faith Singh,[5] originally as a segment of the Jaipur Heritage International Festival in 2006, and developed into a free-standing festival of literature standing on its own feet in 2008.[1] JVF's Community Director Vinod Joshi is its regional advisor. All events at the festival are free and not ticketed.

In 2012, a number of events occurred related to the Salman Rushdie and the Satanic Verses controversy.[6]

History, Timeline[edit]


The 2006 inaugural Jaipur Literature Festival had 18 writers including Hari Kunzru, William Dalrymple, Shobhaa De and Namita Gokhale and 14 others.[7] It drew a crowd of about 100 attendees, including some who "appeared to be tourists who had simply got lost," according to the event's co-director William Dalrymple.[8]


In 2007 the festival grew in size and featured Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai, Suketu Mehta, Shashi Deshpande, and William Dalrymple.


In 2008 the festival continued to expand with about 2,500 attendees[9] and the following authors/speakers: Ian McEwan, Donna Tartt, John Berendt, Paul Zacharia, Indra Sinha, Uday Prakash, Christopher Hampton, Manil Suri, Miranda Seymour


The 2009 festival had about 12,000 attendees and over 140 authors/speakers[10] including Vikram Seth, Pico Iyer, Michael Ondaatje, Simon Schama, Tina Brown, Hanif Kureshi, Hari Kunzru, Pankaj Mishra, Tariq Ali, Ahmed Rashid, Patrick French, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Wendy Doniger, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Tarun Tejpal, Sashi Tharoor, U R Ananthmurthy, Alka Saraogi, Anuragh Mathur, Ashok Vajpeyi, Ashis Nandy, Basharat Peer, Charles Nicoll, Christophe Jaffrelot, Colin Thubron, Daniyal Mueenuddin, Geetanjali Shree, Mukul Kesavan, Musharraf Ali Farooqui, G. T. Narayana Rao, Nikita Lalwani, Paul Zacharia, Pavan K Varma, Rana Dasgupta, S R Faruqui, Tash Aw, Udayan Vajpeyi, Farah Khan and Sonia Faleiro,[11] with music provided by DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Nitin Sawney, Salman Ahmad (Junoon Unplugged), Shye Ben Tzur, Rajasthan Roots, Paban Das Baul and others in evening concerts over the 5 days.[10] The special theme was the oral tradition, in India and elsewhere.


The 2010 festival had about 30,000 attendees[12] and 172 authors/speakers, including Geoff Dyer, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Jamaica Kincaid, Niall Ferguson, Vikram Chandra and Hemant Shesh.[13]


The 2011 festival had 226 writers like Hemant Shesh, Prasoon Joshi, Javed Akhtar, Gulzar /speakers, including Nobel-winners J.M. Coetzee and Orhan Pamuk.[14]


See also: The Satanic Verses controversy

The 2012 festival was held from 20–24 January, with the talk show host Oprah Winfrey and author Salman Rushdie among the names announced in advance.[15] Rushdie later cancelled, and indeed cancelled his complete tour of India citing possible threats to his life as the primary reason.[4][16][17] Rushdie investigated police reports that hitmen had been hired to assassinate him and implied that the police might have exaggerated the potential danger.[18]

Police said that Ruchir Joshi, Jeet Thayil, Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar fled Jaipur on the advice of officials at the Jaipur Literature Festival after reading excerpts from The Satanic Verses, which is banned in India.[19] Kunzru later wrote, "Our intention was not to offend anyone's religious sensibilities, but to give a voice to a writer who had been silenced by a death threat".[20]

A proposed video link session between Rushdie and the Jaipur Literature Festival ran into difficulty after the government pressured the festival to stop it.[18]

Rushdie expressed disappointment "on behalf of India", "an India in which religious extremists can prevent free expression of ideas at a literary festival, in which the politicians are too, let's say, in bed with those groups...for narrow electoral reasons, in which the police forces are unable to secure venues against demonstrators even when they know the demonstration is on its way".[21][22]

The Chairman of the Press Council of India and former judge of the Supreme Court Markandey Katju said that although he was "not in favour of religious obscurantism", he found Rushdie a "poor" and "substandard writer" and the focus on him detracting from more fundamental issues of "colonial inferiority complex" among educated Indians and what a literary mission could be about.[23] Scottish novelist Allan Massie wrote, "The response to words should be words and words in the form of argument, not abuse".[24]Manoj Joshi, writing in Britain's Daily Mail, said the whole affair had brought to the fore "the contradictions of modern India. At one level, they live in a democracy that promises all the freedoms that their cherished West offers, at another, they are besieged by forces of obscurantism and violence which try to pull them back to the medieval ages in which many of our religious and political leaders live".[25]Peter Florence, Director, Hay Festivals, said the whole affair showed the importance of book festivals.[26]

On 28 January, Rushdie responded to Chetan Bhagat via Twitter after the popular writer taunted him and his work.[27]


The 2015 festival was scheduled from January 21–25. Earlier that year it had been reported that the tentative list of speakers this season will be 181 including VS Naipaul, Chetan Bhagat and Amish Tripathi. This year the festival also expanded beyond the four walls of Diggi Palace, holding over 300 events in 10 venues, including the Music Stage at Clarks Amer, the Jaipur BookMark at Narain Niwas, and two special sessions at Amer Fort and Hawa Mahal to focus on heritage and culture, supported by Rajasthan Tourism. Notable sessions of the festival in 2015 included two packed sessions each for Nobel Laureate Sir V.S. Naipaul and former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who drew a 5000 strong crowd to the Front Lawns of Diggi Palace.


The Jaipur Lit Fest 2016 began at the Diggi Palace as scheduled with Gair dance from Barmer, Rajasthan accompanied by a crowd waiting since early morning.[28] The Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, inaugurated the festival by lighting the ceremonial lamp, and reminisced about her childhood memories of reading books. [29] This year, the Jaipur Literature Festival entered into the Limca Book of Records.


Notable speakers at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 included writers Shashi Tharoor and Nassim Nicholas Taleb.


The 2018 edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival was organised from January 25th to January 29th at the Diggi Palace in Jaipur. The biggest yet, the event saw participation from more than 380 people from across the world, who represented over 20 international and 15 Indian languages. The participants included authors, novelists, essayists, actors, politicians, musicians, lyricists, film directors, historians, scientists, broadcasters, businesspersons, poets, translators, marketers, journalists, publishers, playwrights, critics, academics, civil servants, dancers, therapists and activists. Among the prominent speakers at the 2018 edition were Helen Fielding, Hamid Karzai, Shashi Tharoor, Anurag Kashyap, Chetan Bhagat, Chitra Mudgal, Kota Neelima, Nayan Tara Sahgal, Prasoon Joshi, Rajdeep Sardesai, Roly Keating, ,Sagarika Ghose, Sharmila Tagore, Sheila Dikshit, Shobha De, Soha Ali Khan, Vinod Dua, Vir Sanghvi and Vishal Bhardwaj. Apart from lectures, book discussions, debates, book readings and book launches, the 2018 Jaipur Literature Festival also featured a music stage, headlined by Kailash Kher, and a theatrical dance performance at Hawa Mahal.


  1. ^ ab"Writes of passage". Hindustan Times. India. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  2. ^"Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2018". 
  3. ^Literacy in India & the Jaipur Literature Festival, 25 January 2010. "Today [25 Jan 2010] marks the end of the 5th annual Jaipur Literature Festival .. First organized in 2005.."
  4. ^ abBurke, Jason (20 January 2012). "Salman Rushdie pulls out of Jaipur literary festival over assassination fears". The Guardian. England. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 
  5. ^"In the throes of joy". The Hindu. India. 20 January 2006. Retrieved 12 August 2008. 
  6. ^Banker, Ashok (30 January 2012). "Luetic Marxists For Levite Maharajahs". Outlook India. Retrieved 2017-02-27. 
  7. ^"Pen On The Rostrum ",, 17 April 2006
  8. ^"Literary festival draws big stars"Archived 13 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine., The Brunei Times, 1 February 2010.
  9. ^"Review 2008". Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  10. ^ ab"About the festival '09". Jaipur Literature Festival. Archived from the original on 28 January 2011. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  11. ^"Speakers '09". Jaipur Literature Festival. Archived from the original on 12 October 2011. Retrieved October 1, 2016. 
  12. ^About the Festival ’10
  13. ^"2010 Attending Authors". Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  14. ^"2011 Festival: Attending Speakers". Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  15. ^"2012 Speakers". Archived from the original on 25 January 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  16. ^Singh, Akhilesh Kumar (20 January 2012). "Salman Rushdie not to attend Jaipur Literature Festival". The Times of India. India. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 
  17. ^"Salman Rushdie pulls out of Jaipur literature festival". BBC News. 20 January 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2012. 
  18. ^ abSingh, Akhilesh Kumar (24 January 2012). "Jaipur Literature Festival: Even a virtual Rushdie is unwelcome for Rajasthan govt". The Times of India. India. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  19. ^Singh, Akhilesh Kumar; Chowdhury, Shreya Roy (23 January 2012). "Salman Rushdie shadow on Jaipur Literature Festival: 4 authors who read from 'The Satanic Verses' sent packing". The Times of India. India. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  20. ^Kunzru, Hari (22 January 2012). "Why I quoted from The Satanic Verses". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  21. ^"Politicians in bed with extremists for electoral gains". The Times of India. India. 25 January 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  22. ^Burke, Jason (24 January 2012). "Salman Rushdie goes on offensive after Indian festival appearance is cancelled". The Guardian. England. Retrieved 24 January 2012. 
  23. ^"Salman Rushdie is poor, substandard writer: Justice Katju". The Times of India. India. 25 January 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  24. ^Massie, Allan (25 January 2012). "Salman Rushdie and the Jaipur Literary Festival: the zealots have triumphed again". The Telegraph. England. Retrieved 25 January 2012. 
  25. ^Joshi, Manoj (26 January 2012). "Not letting him speak is a travesty: But the Rushdie affair should not be allowed to damage what is a great literary festival". Daily Mail. England. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  26. ^Florence, Peter (26 January 2012). "Salman Rushdie case shows importance of book festivals". The Telegraph. England. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  27. ^"Rushdie, Chetan in tweet war". The Times of India. India. 29 January 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2012. 
  28. ^
  29. ^

External links[edit]

Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, and Prasoon Joshi at Jaipur Literature Festival 2011
Salman Rushdie cancelled his complete tour of India citing possible threats to his life as the primary reason

A Jaipur Literary Festival audience.Deepak Sharma/Press Association. All rights reserved.It was yet another victory for Trump. The reports of America’s decline are exaggerated. The Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) proved it. POTUS – President of the United States – matters. Donald Trump got mentioned in several sessions. Hovering as a spectre over a literary festival in a distant land is a great achievement, beyond the President of Mongolia and the Supreme Leader of North Korea.

If Donald Trump did not tweet about the Jaipur Literature Festival, it was because he was too busy with his inauguration. India got ignored because the good women of this civilisation did not join the international march against the new POTUS.

At JLF, all references to Trump were critical and every scathing remark about him was greeted with derisive laughter by the audience. But Trump derives oxygen of publicity from critical comments. These energise his cultish constituency. His fans, like the devotees of all cult heads, are ever ready with an abusive and intimidating response to the leader’s critics. A quick response team goes into battle on the social media.

Soon after moving into the White House, Trump phoned the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a fellow populist leader, and invited him to visit the White House. Trump could hardly complain to Modi against those in Jaipur who misjudged him. They were mainly Americans, Britons and Non Resident Indians.

A big nuisance

Political leaders get implicated in literary conversations because the ills of the world are felt most acutely by the sensitive souls. Poets and playwrights spot the emerging dystopia even while politicians falsify a given situation as per their set partisan agenda. That is why the politicians in power consider the writers and poets to be a big nuisance.

A democratic leader lets the writers speak even if she is unable to build a nation of their dreams. Another kind of leader, whether elected or unelected, unleashes on writers and other dissenters either the oppressive state machinery or his party’s storm-troopers. The use of the non-state actors is a preferred option because it protects his own “democratic” credentials and no questions are asked by some US-based Freedom Forum established during the cold war.

The prominent Indian writers who had retuned their awards protesting against rising intolerance and intimidation of writers and rationalists were not invited to the Jaipur Literature Festival this time but some of those who came pointed a finger at the ills afflicting the contemporary India. A famous poet from the Hindi film world “barked” and celebrated his “freedom to bark”. So what if he cannot bite he said, acknowledging the failure of poetry to influence politics! He knows we are not in the romantic age and poets are no longer unacknowledged legislators of the world. Hovering as a spectre over a literary festival in a distant land is a great achievement, beyond the President of Mongolia and the Supreme Leader of North Korea.

“Terrible inauguration”

The attack on Trump began at the opening session of the festival. American poet-performer Anne Waldman, in her keynote address, referred to the “terrible inauguration” in Washington DC. She went further than Meryl Streep, shouting in solidarity with her sisters, daughters, children and all women marching towards Washington to protest against the impending inauguration of Trump as President.

Anne Waldman reading, 2015. Flickr/kellywritershouse. Some rights reserved.That was just the beginning. Trump kept coming in for dishonourable mention and those making snide remarks included eminent speakers and moderators. A British writer said he would not even utter the name of the new American President. He didn’t have to.

American writer Paul Beatty went further in an interview saying there is a reason that people picked this guy (Trump). “He is an apparition, but he is both real and unreal, and people see something in him.”

A Jaipur newspaper quoted a state minister belonging to Modi’s party. The eight-column headline said “PM Modi has some divine power: Kataria”. No devotee of Trump has gone that far.

Another English daily carried a long opinion piece arguing that both Modi and Trump are textbook populists. The writer said that Modi matched all the characteristics of a populist leader as defined by Princeton Professor Jan-Werner Muller in his book “What is Populism?”

Both leaders are polarising figures and both do not sit idle for a moment. They tweet and they tweet. They are not afraid of making politically incorrect remarks and very simple statements. They take on the elites fond of articulating complex thoughts. Modi and Trump know what an American columnist said: In tough times, people want someone who can make a compelling pitch and inspire a sense of urgency. Integrity and intelligence are not what the voters are after.

Apart from the stray comments by individual speakers, the entire final session of the festival referred to Trump as it was titled: “Debate: We are living in a Post-Truth World”. It was a topical subject but the debate only proved what some writers have been saying: “There is no space left for a real public discourse.”

The organisers had framed the issue mainly in the context of Trump and Brexit since lies were used in the two campaigns. As the debate progressed, the spectre of Narendra Modi came to haunt it. Since Prime Minister Modi has been blamed for not being truthful while electioneering and while selling his demonetisation decision, his supporters suspect words such “Post-Truth World”.

In India, the list of “provocative” words keeps expanding. Politicians hijack words and phrases to make them seductive or repellent. The frame of reference matters. In contemporary India, anyone uttering the words “intolerant” or “inclusive” or “secular” is branded as a critic of Modi.

Slippery slope

Trump is cited most by those commenting on the post-truth world. Of course, the argument about the rise of passion as the prime instrument of winning power has been validated in the recent years in India, America and Europe.

Thus the debate in the JLF reflected the polarisation between the supporters of Modi who saw the slippery slope. If you light a verbal fire around Trump, it will soon reach Modi, they feared. And it did. One speaker devalued the very term “post-truth”. He detected in it a conspiracy by the liberal media. He told the British critics that what Trump does is not their business. He wanted the audience to pay respect to the wise voters of America. He pointed out with satisfaction that women of India did not join the global protest against Trump! He was not upset by the attack on a fellow journalist launched by Trump at his press conference.

Since the expression “post-truth” is not as simple as “lies”, there was considerable scope for philosophical musings. What is truth, it was asked and no one was prepared to wait for an answer. The meditation on the nature of the truth involved words such as “my truth”, “your truth”. A writer found it necessary to quote Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

In a literary festival, Trump could have even been lauded for his power of imagination and for creating fiction to fight a political battle! Emotion-based politics is closer to literature than fact-based rhetoric. A professor of literature would say that literature is important precisely because it is not bound by facts. “It is important because it is not bound up in issues of law, science, medicine or business.”

Entering the Jaipur Literary Festival.Manish Swarup/Press Association. All rights reserved.It is said that one can gain more understanding about the human heart from Shakespeare than from Freud. Myron Magnet asks in an essay: "Can anyone think that the studies of Margaret Mead or Alfred Kinsey tell us anything nearly as true as Ovid or Turgenev?"


Since both Trump and Modi excite hearts rather than minds, they ought to be invited to the next Jaipur Literature Festival. Modi’s book of poems could be among the scores of books that are released at JLF.

It will fit into JLF’s intellectual agenda since the organisers say that the festival should not just be a bubble in which the liberals talk to liberals. Going by this policy, this time they invited two leaders of the RSS, a right-wing cultural organisation that mentors the ruling party. Modi was groomed by the RSS from a young age.

Participation by Trump and Modi will fit into JLF’s commercial agenda also. It will gain significant sponsors as the American Embassy and the Indian Ministry of Finance.

If the Modi Government accepts the suggestion made at JLF by a noted TV journalist, it would set up a Ministry for History. That ministry could sponsor presentations by two non-Marxist historians. Like the truth, there is also “My History vs. Your History.” That may be a topic for the next JLF. Rival historians can then come and fight outside the Groves of Academe!