Magasaysay winner TM Krishna today said there was a pervading climate of fear in the country alluding to the recent demands of ban on Pakistani artistes, which he termed as “ridiculous”.
The carnatic vocalist made the remarks in his keynote address at the second edition of Kumaon Literary Festival which kickstarted in Rampur, nestled in the lap of the Himalayas.
Krishna said these are times when everyone is “scared” and stressed the need to change the semantics of the discourse of freedom of expression.
“I think we are living in times where everybody is scared. People in the cinema are told who can act in their cinema. People are told who should not act and why not. There cannot be anything more ridiculous than that.
“Ideology is a market. When one says you have a majoritarian ideology, it is creating a majoritarian market space. It is about nurturing and expanding that space. It is about more market share,” he said.
He referred to freedom of expression as an act of “sharing” and said that the constitutional right was a “natural” way of life for any individual.
“We are told not to share. We are being told what we should share. We are being told how we should share. We are being told why we should not share,” he said.
Referring to events such as the ban on a book of Tamil author Perumal Murugan which was subsequently lifted, he said any move to curb free speech was “dangerous”.
“We must change the semantics of how we are talking about freedom of expression as I think it is the freedom to be who we are as natural human beings. Unless we can change the way this discourse is happening, we are destroying the process of intellection in this country,” he said.
A not-for-profit initiative, KLF is an annual literary retreat festival which brings together celebrated authors, leaders and opinion makers from across the country in Dhanachuli, a village in Uttarakhand.
Supreme Court judge Justice A K Sikri, in his address, sought to draw a connection between literature and the judiciary, saying that judges are also writers, as they have to pen down lengthy judgements.
“We also help you (writers) by providing plot points for your fiction,” the Supreme Court judge remarked tongue- in-cheek.
The three-day festival, which is part of a larger vision to develop Dhanachuli into a model cultural village, this year will first travel to the Jim’s Jungle Retreat in Jim Corbett National Park and culminate at the foothills of the Himalayas at Te Aroha in the village.
Thought-provoking sessions on the role of nationalist ideologies in shaping global politics, the inadequate representation of Dalit literature and how the definition of a star in Hindi cinema has evolved over the last decades dominated the first day.
The day also saw a discussion around “our collective inability to produce another good detective fiction series since the epic Karamchand”; a tribute to Pakistani writer Intizar Husain; literature in the flash/fast age among others.
Interactive performances like storytelling and dastangoi were also held, besides tales from the wild, first-hand accounts from Dhela village in Corbett and dramatised readings.
The following days of the festival will see a host of other faces from the world of literature, publishing, cinema and politics including Amish Tripathi, Ravi Subramanian, Preeti Shenoy, Jerry Pinto, Shinie Antony and Rakhshanda Jalil.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Pavan Varma, Shatrughan Sinha from the world of politics and law and leading publishers will also be present, along with many speakers like Afia Aslam, Ali Akbar Natiq, Ameena Saiyid, Asif Farrukhi, Asif Noorani, Sabyn Javeri, Mohsin Sayeed from Pakistan.
The festival will continue till October 13.